Candidates stake out positions on casino

Mayoral candidates continued to clash today over plans to bring a casino to East Boston, with City Councilor Mike Ross saying that the construction of a casino is inevitable while businessman Bill Walczak pressed on with his adamant opposition to casino gambling in Boston.

The fresh round of salvos comes on the heels of a statement Sunday by Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, in which he called for a citywide vote on the proposed East Boston casino and threatened to sue to stop a casino from opening in Everett.

In a statement issued today in response to Conley, Ross emphasized that he does not support the spread of casinos to Eastern Massachusetts.

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“But we can’t stick our heads in the sand,” Ross said. “State law says casino gambling is coming to Eastern Massachusetts. The entire region is going to suffer negative consequences when a casino opens, so I made the tough decision early in this process that I’d support a casino in East Boston so that the city gets the tax revenue to fund critical priorities like early childhood education, job training, and programs that mitigate the negative effects.”

The debate over whether Boston should welcome casino gambling has ignited perhaps the most fierce disagreement among the 12 candidates of any issue thus far in the race.

The candidates have tussled in numerous candidates forums over whether the proposed East Boston casino should be subject to a citywide vote or one involving only East Boston residents.

In his statement Sunday, Conley challenged any of his mayoral opponents to provide any rationale for why the vote should be limited to East Boston residents. In his statement today, Ross responded:

“Whether a casino is built in Everett or East Boston, it’s going to have similar effects on our entire city. But a casino in East Boston, rather than one in Everett, will without question impact the families and businesses of East Boston more than the rest the city. That’s why I think they should get the final say in whether a casino will be located in their neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Walczak has maintained the most aggressive opposition to a casino opening near Boston, noting his personal family history and time running the Codman Square Health Center have exposed him to the negative consequences of casino gambling.

Instead, Walczak has said the city should explore the construction of an East Boston Innovation District and has called an 11 a.m. press conference on Wednesday to display a 3D rendering of what the innovation district would look like.