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The Boston Globe

Metro

Casino opponents push ballot measure to repeal state gaming law

A group of casino opponents says that more than 100 volunteers will fan out across the state this weekend to gather enough signatures to place a referendum on the ballot next year to repeal the state’s gambling law.

The organization, Repeal the Casino Deal, needs just under 70,000 certified signatures by Wednesday, and John Ribeiro, their chairman, said Thursday that they are nearing the target and will stand outside supermarkets this weekend to reach their goal.

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“We’re very close to that 70,000 number, but we need to make sure we have a buffer of initial signatures in case some of them are not certified by the cities and towns,” Ribeiro said.

The group will hold a press conference Friday morning in LoPresti Park in East Boston to outline the final signature drive.

Neighborhood residents delivered a stunning blow to a Suffolk Downs casino proposal in East Boston when they rejected the plan at the ballot box Nov. 5. But Suffolk Downs is attempting to relocate the casino in Revere, where voters endorsed the plan as a neighboring community.

Critics contend the relocation plan violates the spirit of the gambling law, and Repeal the Casino Deal says that their victories Nov. 5 in East Boston and Palmer, where voters also rejected a proposed casino, have given the repeal drive momentum.

“This is just a Beacon Hill boondoggle,” Ribeiro said of the 2011 casino law. “And it’s time for the people to clean up this mess.”

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He added: “In nearly every community around the country, wherever they have casino gambling, crime goes up, small businesses are negatively impacted . . . and property values go down. That’s really the bottom line.”

But Jennifer Baruffaldi — a spokeswoman for Citizens for Jobs and Growth in Palmer, which supports casinos — said she is perplexed by the repeal effort.

“I just believe this is a tremendous opportunity to bring jobs and economic growth to our state,” she said. “It’s a lot of jobs, and I think we need those jobs. These are good-paying jobs with benefits, and I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want that for our state.”

Baruffaldi said a recount on the casino vote in Palmer is slated for Nov. 26, and she has also filed complaints with the secretary of state’s office and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission alleging voting irregularities on Nov. 5.

The state casino law allows for up to three resort casinos in Massachusetts — no more than one in each of three regions of the state — and one slot machine parlor that can be built in any region.

A spokeswoman for Governor Deval Patrick did not respond to requests for comment Thursday night, and a spokeswoman for the Gaming Commission declined to comment on the repeal.

Milford voters will decide on a casino proposal for their town on Nov. 19.

Michael Kaplan — chairman of Citizens for Milford’s Future, a group backing the project — said the casino would add $34 million annually to the town’s $81 million budget under terms of a host agreement, among other benefits.

“You just can’t turn your eye at something when it’s that type of money,” Kaplan said, adding that the infusion to the town budget would help the school system retain good teachers.

“Here’s an opportunity where you can . . . keep good quality teachers, instead of seeing them go to neighboring towns that are more affluent than ours and have a higher payroll,” he said.

Repeal the Casino Deal said Thursday that volunteers will canvass communities over the weekend including Boston, Cambridge, Milford, Hopkinton, Holliston, Everett, Tewksbury, Boxborough, Acton, Westport, Plainville, Leominster, Worcester, Longmeadow, West Springfield, and Lenox.

“We’ll carry that momentum that the Red Sox had all the way to the World Series,” said Mayor Joseph Curtatone of Somerville, a casino opponent who will join the group at its Friday press conference.

Celeste Myers — cochairwoman of the No Eastie Casino campaign, who is also involved in the repeal effort — is confident the drive will succeed. She said the best way to avoid problems associated with the industry is simply to “repeal the bill altogether.”

“It’s kind of a failed experiment, as far as I’m concerned” Myers said.

Mark Arsenault of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com or on Twitter @TAGlobe.

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