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Suffolk Downs weighs surprise plan to move casino to Revere

Posted by Your Town  November 5, 2013 09:58 PM

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With East Boston voters rejecting the Suffolk Downs casino proposal, city officials and the track owners turned their attention to Revere, where the project was supported by a majority of voters.

Suffolk Downs will explore moving the entire development onto the Revere side of the city line, Chip Tuttle, the track’s chief operating officer, told the Globe.

In an official statement, Tuttle thanked the people of Revere “for their overwhelming vote of confidence in our project” and the people of East Boston “for allowing us to state our case for thousands of jobs for local residents.”

It is unclear whether Suffolk Downs can create a viable Revere-only plan before final proposals are due, on Dec. 31, but Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo has invited Suffolk Downs to try.

“Fifty-three acres of the property are in Revere,” Rizzo said in a Globe interview. “If there is a way to reshape the project so it fits entirely in Revere, we’re going to pursue it.”

The 78-year-old track has been losing money for years, as its owners have pumped in money to keep the track afloat in anticipation of adding a profitable casino.

Some Revere officials seemed stunned as they considered their options in the wake of the defeat.

"I'm very upset about it," said Richard A. Penta, who represents Ward 1 in Revere. "The right place is Suffolk Downs. Not Everett, not Milford. Suffolk Downs."

Brian Arrigo, an at-large city councilor in Revere, said Tuesday night that he was surprised by the vote of opposition by neighboring East Boston. He said he believed the many in the city, and its government, were anticipating voters would approve the project.

"We've already started to spend money as if we were going to get casino revenue," he said. "Now we have to figure out our plan for the financial health of the city."

Arrigo said the city had used about $1.5 million in rainy day funds in the last fiscal year, and needed to find new revenue for the city.

"I've been concerned from the beginning that we have not talked about a contingency plan," he said. "We've been a little shortsighted in that respect."

He also said he hoped some type of casino development could go forward on land exclusively in Revere that is owned by Suffolk Downs.

"If we are negotiating on our own, maybe we can get a better deal," he said.

Earlier in the day, Richard Chapman, 68, left the voting place at the American Legion Hall on Broadway in Revere Tuesday afternoon after voting in support of the proposed Suffolk Downs casino. The proposal is before voters in East Boston and Revere.

"I think it would be good for the area and I voted for it," Chapman said. "It will bring a lot of benefits, as long as the infrastructure is addressed properly."

Chapman, who is retired, said he believed Massachusetts was losing money to nearby states like Rhode Island and Connecticut that are home to casinos. He would also support a casino development in neighboring Everett, he said.

"I wouldn't have a problem with, but I would rather see it in Revere," he said.

Sandra Maio, 47, a software quality assurance consultant from Revere, said she voted against the development mainly because of concerns over increased traffic.

"I don't want a casino less than five miles from my house," she said. "Route 1A can't handle the traffic as it is."

Maio said she had some concerns over a possible negative social impact, but she was mostly concerned over the affect a casino would have on her commute.

"Adults are adults, they can do what they want," she said. "Although it could bring more crime, and we already have a problem with that around here."

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