The Time Has Come – A casino at Suffolk Downs makes sense

Thanks to a combination of a bad economy and changing attitudes on Beacon Hill, the long talked about coming of a casino at Suffolk Downs appears to be approaching a reality. We feel it is safe to say that within 10 years from now, there will be a major gambling and resort style facility at Suffolk Downs.

As with just about anything in life, there will be positives and negatives for various interests and affected parties. A large casino will bring both construction jobs and permanent jobs, which in turn will create ripple effects of a positive nature for the economies of the adjacent communities.

However, there also will be some negatives, most notably increased traffic congestion and other spillovers typical for a gambling venue, that will have a direct impact upon the quality of life of those communities, including Winthrop.

According to Chip Tuttle, the Chief Operating Officer of Suffolk Downs who spoke to the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce this week, Winthrop could realize an estimated increase of $630,000 in local aid from the state based upon estimated tax revenue and business activity that casino gambling will generate.

While that number sounds pretty good, we think that any discussion of a casino operation at Suffolk Downs also must include a mitigation package for Winthrop, Revere, and East Boston to compensate us for the negative impacts that the casino will have upon our neighborhoods.

Winthrop should use as a guide the mitigation package that was forged with the MWRA 20 years ago for the construction of the Deer Island waste treatment plant, both as to how things were done right and wrong, for future negotiations with state and casino officials.

Although Winthrop received a lot of cash during the construction of the treatment plant, the lack of a permanent, post-construction contract with the MWRA left us with no negotiating leverage even though we have been left with a lot of lasting impacts for which our town is not being fairly compensated.

So while we certainly hope that all parties involved can get their act together and get moving on a casino facility as quickly as possible, we also want to make sure that Winthrop is compensated through some sort of distribution formula that recognizes that our town is a direct abutter that will be bearing the brunt of the negative impacts that will result in the many positives that will benefit for our state and other cities and towns.

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