Councilors Wrestle with Revere-only Casino Plan

The Winthrop opponents of the Revere-only casino proposal for Suffolk Downs wanted the  Town Council to send an official correspondence to the Mass. Gaming Commission (MGC) in advance of its crucial meeting next week.

The Commission is expected to rule on whether the new Mohegan Sun casino project at Suffolk Downs can move forward in the application process for the one Greater Boston-area gaming license. But there will no letter to the MGC from the Town Council as a result of Councilor Nicholas DelVento’s decision to postpone any action until the next meeting of the Council on Dec. 16.

As Councilor-at-Large Philip Boncore adroitly pointed out to his colleagues, because the matter was not on the agenda, any member of the councilor can postpone action on an item and that is the course that DelVento took, much to the dismay of the residents at the meeting.

The Council seemed to be on the verge of having Town Manager James McKenna compose a letter stating the Council’s opposition to the Revere-only casino. East Boston residents voted against the Suffolk Downs casino project in the Nov. 5 election.

Council President Peter Gill, saying the casino opponents had won him over with their presentations, proposed a one-sentence letter of opposition in advance of Tuesday’s MGC meeting and a follow-up letter elaborating the reasons for the opposition. Councilor-at-Large Larry Powers had proposed an amendment to direct McKenna to write a letter to be reviewed by the Council before its submission to the MGC.

Councilor Craig Mael had composed a letter on his Web site that was also considered for submission to the MGC.

But DelVento ended the letter-writing issue for now with his decision to postpone action.

“What we need to look at is the overall [casino] package,” said DelVento. “How did this change from three months ago, six months ago, a year ago? To rush to a position of saying no to a casino on something that has moved a little down the street and on the same lot and we’ve yet to see any changes in the plan – how would you all of sudden change to a big ‘no’ on it. I need to see what’s going to happen and there’s a very good chance that the Gaming Commission has a very good chance of throwing this out next week. How can I be against something the last time I saw it I was for it. Just because it moved 2,500 feet, how can the whole thing be a ‘no’ now?”

Winthrop resident John Ribiero, a well-known opponent of the Suffolk Downs casino project, said, “I am heartened from the activity this evening. I wish there was a vote to go forward with the letter. But as you know timing is of the essence and the Gaming Commission is going to decide next week whether to allow the proposal to move forward without an additional vote which is clearly in violation of the law. They should have another vote of the whole [Revere] community.”

Ribiero encouraged Winthrop residents to send letters to the Gaming Commission stating their opposition to the Revere-only casino. “Let’s put the full-court press on,” said Ribiero.

Winthrop resident Carol Facella said in an interview after the meeting, “Since Winthrop has been denied a vote on the Suffolk Downs casino, we look to our Town Council to be our voice and to do what’s in the best interests of Winthrop. There has been no indication of direct benefits to Winthrop, only an illusion of meager benefits through mitigation. But we can guarantee the adverse effects of casinos.”

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