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After rejecting casino, East Boston now looks to its neighbor

Said Candy Lopresti (left) of East Boston on the Suffolk Downs casino: “This would have been something that everybody could have some job at.” Added Michael Triant, also of East Boston: “If it goes to Revere, and we get nothing, then we really lost.”

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff photos

Said Candy Lopresti (left) of East Boston on the Suffolk Downs casino: “This would have been something that everybody could have some job at.” Added Michael Triant, also of East Boston: “If it goes to Revere, and we get nothing, then we really lost.”

After killing plans for a Suffolk Downs casino that carried the promise of tens of millions for their neighborhood, East Boston residents now face the unsettling prospect of a casino being built in virtually the same place with none of the financial benefits.

While the likelihood of a “Revere-only” casino on the site is unclear, many East Boston residents say it represents a worst-case scenario for the neighborhood — being dealt the disadvantages of a round-the-clock gambling mecca while the neighboring city collects the winnings. That possibility has united casino supporters and opponents alike in wary frustration.

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“If it goes to Revere, and we get nothing, then we really lost,” said Michael Triant, 34, who grew up in East Boston and voted for the $1 billion casino. “I don’t want to see Revere get it. If that happens now, we’re not gonna get any of the great things that we were promised.”

East Boston voters rejected the casino proposal Tuesday by 56 percent to 44 percent. But the project won majority support in Revere, and the racetrack quickly said it would explore plans for a casino located entirely in that city. About one-third of the 163-acre property lies in Revere.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Rita Buono said she fears increased traffic and crime and a decline in property values if Revere is allowed to build a casino, which is why she voted against it for East Boston.

That drew an angry response from No Eastie Casino, the chief opposition group.

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“East Boston voters said ‘no’ to the impacts that a Suffolk Downs casino would bring, and a Revere-only casino will create the same impacts,” the group wrote in a letter Friday to elected officials and the state’s gambling commission. “Any attempt to move forward with a Revere-only casino proposal is a deliberate effort to disenfranchise East Boston voters.”

The group said it was outraged “this idea could even be entertained.”

‘This would have been something that everybody could have some job at.’

Candy LoPresti, East Boston 
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Some opponents even say they might have voted differently if they had known the casino would wind up in essentially the same place anyway.

Rita Buono said she was initially relieved Tuesday after the casino was voted down. But when she heard rumblings that a casino might be built just over the Revere line, she began to worry.

“If I knew it was going to be a set thing, and it was going to come in regardless, yes, of course, I’m going to put my hand in the pie as well,” she said.

All the reasons she opposed the casino — fears of traffic, crime, and declining home values — would still hold true, she said, and East Boston would have no say over how it was run.

Under an agreement signed with the city in August, casino officials agreed to pay East Boston $33.4 million up front and give Boston at least $32 million annually. The casino guaranteed at least 4,000 permanent jobs, a key facet of the casino debate.

Even without the financial benefits, some East Boston residents said they remain supportive of a casino. They were quick to blame opponents for not seizing a golden opportunity.

“Shame on these people,” said Pat Benti, 63, a supporter who lives near the racetrack. “Now East Boston doesn’t even get a single penny. But we still want to see this happen.”

Candy LoPresti, 66, who lives in East Boston beside the racetrack, said she was angry over Tuesday’s vote because the casino could have done a lot of good for the city.

“We have a lot of older people, we have a lot of immigrants, we have a lot of people that, whether they’re legal or not legal, they’re not making a lot of money,” she said. “This would have been something that everybody could have some job at,” she said.

She would still support the casino in Revere, she said. But it would be hard to see all the benefits flow down the road.

The prospects for a Revere casino are unclear, and the chairman of the state’s gambling commission last week said he wasn’t sure whether it was possible.

“I don’t know if there is a way to make it go,” Stephen Crosby told the Globe.

Applications for casino licenses are due at year’s end, giving the racetrack only weeks to come up with a new plan. Any proposal would raise a host of other logistical questions, including whether a second referendum would be required.

Given the hurdles, many residents said they were skeptical that the Revere plan would ever materialize.

“You can’t do nothing with 50 acres,” said Gary Gosselin, 51, who voted against the casino. He was confident there was not enough land on the Revere side to make it work. “That’s why I was so happy they said no. I can sleep at night.”

Others weren’t as sure, but admitted they had thought enough about casinos for some time. China Shelton, 34, who voted against the casino after much consideration, said she would wait for a concrete plan before devoting any more energy to the matter.

“If they come around and they come up with a plan again, I will think about it,” she said. “I’ve kind of shelved it mentally. I’ll worry about it if it becomes an issue again.”

Some worried that the casino issue would leave a bitter legacy, regardless of the final outcome. As the vote neared, she said, public meetings grew so heated that police were brought in.

“I don’t know if it will ever cool down,” LoPresti said. “There will be people who forever will be saying, ‘Look what you did to us. This is something we could have used.’ ”

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete. Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe .com.
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