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East Boston clergy organize against Suffolk Downs casino

More than 30 local religious leaders from an assortment of faiths have formed a new group in opposition to a casino at Suffolk Downs, and will be praying, preaching, and canvassing to defeat the project at the Nov. 5 East Boston-only referendum.

The group of clergy and business owners, calling itself Friends of East Boston, announced its no-budget campaign against the casino at a press conference today in the basement of Central Assembly of God Church in East Boston.

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“A casino in East Boston is probably one of the worst things that could happen to our community,” said the Rev. Thomas S. Domurat, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, predicting a casino would increase gambling addiction, personal bankruptcies and street traffic. “We can do better than this as a community and must reject the placement of a casino here in East Boston.”

Pedro Morales, a Harvard Divinity School student from East Boston who is coordinating the effort, said the group “has not raised one dollar” to defeat the casino, and does not expect to raise a lot of money for a campaign.

“You’re not going to fight a casino with money,” he said. “You’re not going to fight Goliath with Goliath’s tools.” He said the group will combat the casino by repeating the message that East Boston can do better than a gambling resort. “Every single Sunday, in every single church, from every single pastor, the people will hear that message.”

The group intends to collect more than 5,000 signatures in East Boston on a petition to ask Suffolk Downs to voluntarily withdraw its casino proposal.

Suffolk Downs, with partner Caesars Entertainment, has planned at $1 billion gambling resort at the track. Suffolk Downs is competing for the Greater Boston casino license with a Wynn Resorts project in Everett and a Foxwoods project in Milford.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark

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