On The Casino Front: Casino Question to be Decided by November Vote

September 29, 2014
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Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo said he will not support the expanded gaming repeal, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria challenged the media to get information out to the voters to prevent confusion – and at the same time – many influential Charlestown residents have jumped very vocally on the repeal effort.

As the casino licensing process unfolded amongst a tremendous amount of intensity last week, the elephant lurking in the back of the room that was rarely referred to, but ever-present, was the November expanded gaming repeal ballot question.

With the licensing decision now over, that elephant has strode to the main stage with campaigns for the repeal once again at center stage and campaigns against the repeal getting prepped for the battle.

Rizzo said  that he wouldn’t stand in the way of his neighbor’s success in terms of supporting the repeal.

“No, I’m not going to support the repeal,” he said last week. “Clearly I wanted to secure this license for Revere, but I’ve been a supporter of expanded gaming for a long time and that’s not changed. We’re shipping gaming dollars out of Massachusetts now and I would rather see that money stay here. I’m disappointed with the licensing decision, but I’m still a supporter of expanded gaming.”

That put an end to some rumblings around Revere and Everett that whomever lost the licensing decision – whether Rizzo or DeMaria – would begin an effort to support a repeal of gaming. It didn’t pan out though in the end.

DeMaria implored reporters and the media last Wednesday, right after the signing ceremony with Wynn and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), to spread the word about what the question means.

“It’s very confusing from the start,” he said. “If you want casinos, you have to vote ‘no.’ If you don’t want them, you vote ‘yes.’ That’s one of my problems with ballot questions because it’s written in a way that it confuses voters. I have an obligation, but especially the media, has an obligation to the residents of the Commonwealth to make sure they know what they’re voting for on Nov. 4. The media needs to do stories on this and inform voters what ‘no’ means and what ‘yes’ means on this ballot question. It’s a very confusing set up and if people aren’t informed, they might vote incorrectly. We have to get the word out now.”

That said, getting the word out is exactly what the ‘Yes on 3’ folks have been doing for several months all over the state – and now they’ve added some important allies in Charlestown. That neighborhood of Boston looks to be the most dramatically impacted neighborhood in terms of traffic by the Wynn project. Despite conditions on the license and promises from the company to hammer out a short and long-term solution to the decades-old traffic problem, several influential residents of Charlestown weren’t buying into the plan just yet.

Last Friday, more than 50 residents gathered just after 5 p.m. in Sullivan Square to protest the decision and show their support for the expanded gaming repeal.

Hoisting official ‘Yes on 3’ signs – as well as homemade, handwritten placards on poster board – residents passed out literature with Eastie advocate and State Rep. Candidate Celeste Myers and her brother, Yes on 3 Chairman John Ribeiro.

Quite obviously, Charlestown had become the latest hotbed of discontent with expanded gaming – and with more concerns about the issue than just traffic in Sullivan Square.

“I’m against everything with gaming,” said Charlestown resident Tom Annaratone. “I see no reason to base our economy on something that’s failing elsewhere already. They’re closing casinos in Atlantic City and we’re opening them. It makes no sense. As a resident, I’m obviously very concerned about traffic here, but in total I think it’s short-term casino jobs and long-term misery.”

Also in attendance was Charlestown Neighborhood Council Chair Tom Cunha, who said the traffic situation will hamper public safety.

“The closest station to that project will be the Charlestown station with mutual aid,” he said, while hoisting a homemade ‘Yes on 3’ sign. “How is a fire engine or ambulance going to get over there in this traffic, let alone with thousands more vehicles coming through here? I’m concerned about public safety in those terms. We spent five years as a community coming up with a plan for this area, but clearly they’re going to do whatever they want to do. Also, every accident that happens on this circle by a car going to that casino is going to be reflected in our insurance rates. Our rates are going to be a million bucks. It will all be on Charlestown, not Everett.”

Others, like Virginia Goscinak of Charlestown, had moral reservations peppered up by real traffic complications.

“The other night we went over to a grand opening at Assembly Row in Somerville,” she said. “That’s really only across the street. It’s not far at all, but it took us 30 minutes to get there because of all of the stoplights and traffic. What happens when the casino starts generating even more traffic? How will we get anywhere outside of our neighborhood?”

And such concerns kept coming as residents chanted “Yes on 3” and cars went by honking with approval.

But sentiments are strong – and growing this week – in the ‘No on 3’ campaign, which is officially called the Committee to Protect Mass Jobs.

That campaign held its first event in Springfield on Tuesday, Sept. 23.

Leading the charge on that is the MGM Springfield casino and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno – among others.

Wynn Resorts, for its part, hinted last week that it wouldn’t get involved in the ballot question. The company has typically stayed out of such discussions in the past and has maintained that it probably won’t break from that stance now.

“We have always said it’s up to the citizens of the Commonwealth to make that decision in November,” said Robert DeSalvio, senior vice president of development for Wynn. “Whether or not we get involved at a later date, we really haven’t come to that conclusion yet, but certain we believe it will be up to the citizens of the Commonwealth to decide in November.”