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East Boston politicians opposed to Suffolk Downs’ Revere plan

The officials originally backed plan for a casino at the track, until it was voted down by residents

East Boston politicians say if Suffolk Downs tries to build a casino just across the city line in Revere, they’ll vbe violating the spirit of the state’s law legalizing casino gambling.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File 2012

East Boston politicians say if Suffolk Downs tries to build a casino just across the city line in Revere, they’ll vbe violating the spirit of the state’s law legalizing casino gambling.

Once ardent supporters of the casino at Suffolk Downs, elected officials in East Boston have become sharp critics of the developers’ attempts to move the project across the border to Revere following its rejection in Eastie.

State Representative Carlo P. Basile, Councilor Sal LaMattina, and state Senator Anthony W. Petruccelli — each of whom expended significant political capital backing the original East Boston casino proposal — have all said they believe the Suffolk Downs attempts to move the project out of the city limits by shifting the construction into Revere is illegal and runs counter to the intent of the casino bill passed by the Legislature.

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The original $1 billion proposal, which was rejected by East Boston voters but endorsed in Revere, sat on the border between the two communities, with all of the construction located in East Boston.

“Because one host community voted in the negative, the project proposed for Suffolk Downs is dead,” Petruccelli declared in a letter that he sent to the state gambling commission on Wednesday. “The commission cannot allow a gaming applicant to circumvent the process required by the gaming act merely because the results were disappointing.”

In the two-page letter, Petruccelli, whose district includes parts of both East Boston and Revere, said the revised Suffolk Downs casino proposal differs so significantly from the one approved by Revere voters that it would require a new host community agreement.

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In an attempt to salvage their bid for a casino license after the Nov. 5 vote, Suffolk Downs officials shifted the project proposal entirely onto the more than 50 acres of the property that lie within Revere.

That new proposal incensed casino opponents in East Boston, who will be among those appearing Thursday before the gambling commission as the body begins debating whether the improvised Suffolk Downs casino proposal should be allowed to move forward.

‘The commission cannot allow a gaming applicant to circumvent the process required by the gaming act.’

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“We were completely taken aback at this suggestion by Suffolk Downs, that they presume they can go forward with a Revere-only development,” said Celeste Myers, who led opposition to the East Boston casino.

Elected officials disagree over whether the plan to move the project is legal and, to the chagrin of casino opponents, neither Mayor Thomas M. Menino nor incoming mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh has publicly decried the proposal.

“That’s a Revere issue,” said Menino, when asked about the Revere-only proposal Wednesday. “It’s not my decision.”

Walsh wants to meet with officials from Suffolk Downs as well as legal counsel, but said that he does not believe the new proposal is legal.

“I haven’t spoken with Suffolk Downs yet,” Walsh said as he left an event on Tuesday. He does not think they can take the casino project to Revere, given the East Boston vote. “I think the law prohibits them.”

The 2011 Massachusetts casino law states that casino proposals in more than one community must negotiate a hosting deal with each community, “and receive a certified and binding vote on a ballot question at an election held in each host community in favor of such a license.”

Suffolk Downs has maintained that the casino host agreement with Revere can be revised to reflect greater benefits for the city, and that the project can be relocated without another referendum.

“Revere residents have spoken overwhelmingly in favor of good jobs, local business partnerships, substantial local road and infrastructure improvements, and investment in their community,” Chip Tuttle, the chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, said in a statement provided to the Globe.

Making the Revere vote stick is critical for Suffolk Downs: There is not time under state law and gambling commission deadlines to hold a second vote, and the commission has been reluctant to extend deadlines.

Elected officials in Revere have largely welcomed the plan to build a resort in their city.

“I respect East Boston’s vote and I also respect Revere’s vote, and I think it’s disingenuous for anyone to come into another community and tell them what to do,” said state Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein .

“Our voters spoke, and we need to be respected.”

Mark Arsenault, Shirley Leung, and Jim O’Sullivan of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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