Supporters and opponents of a casino at Suffolk Downs don’t agree on much, but both sides favor holding a referendum on the project the same day Bostonians elect their next mayor.
Officials for the East Boston racetrack have asked the host communities for their casino project, Boston and Revere, to each schedule casino referendum votes on Nov. 5, the date of the Boston municipal election final.
The cities are each expected to grant the date, which would satisfy a requirement in state law for a 60- to 90-day campaign period before any casino votes.
Holding the high-profile referendum the same day as Boston’s municipal election should guarantee higher voter turnout, which both sides cheer.
“The economic benefits of this project — the jobs, the business partnerships — are so compelling and the support we have in both communities is so solid,” said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer for Suffolk Downs. “We could have the election any time within the 60- to 90-day window.”
Opponents are equally bullish.
“We want as many voters as possible,” said Celeste Myers, co-chair of No Eastie Casino, an anti-casino group. “I think that date is optimal for us.”
Suffolk Downs is proposing a $1 billion casino resort at the track with partner Caesars Entertainment. Under state law, no casino proposal can win a license unless the residents of the host community endorse the project at a referendum. In the case of Suffolk Downs, which straddles the Boston-Revere city line, both communities will vote.
Large cities, such as Boston, can confine the casino vote to the ward in which the project is located, or expand the vote citywide. Mayor Thomas M. Menino prefers a ward-only vote; City Council president Stephen J. Murphy has said he sees little appetite on the council to expand the vote citywide.
The track’s request for the referendum follows the signing of agreements with Boston and Revere outlining the terms under which the two cities will accept a casino at the racetrack.
Setting the emotional casino vote on Nov. 5 “will take some of the oxygen out of the city election,” at least in the East Boston neighborhood, said Murphy.
Murphy has informally polled other council members and has found wide support for the Nov. 5 date. He said there are a few details to settle. Also, casino developers are required to pay for their referendum, and the city will have to decide what portion of the election costs to assign to Suffolk Downs, he said.
Suffolk Downs is competing for the sole Greater Boston casino license with Wynn Resorts, proposing to build in Everett, and a Foxwoods project in Milford. Wynn has already won a referendum vote; the Foxwoods vote is expected in the fall.