Proponents of salvaging a defeated Suffolk Downs casino by relocating the proposal entirely in Revere insisted Thursday before the state gambling commission that the project can be moved without a new referendum.
Revere voters approved a Suffolk Downs casino Nov. 5, the same day voters in East Boston rejected the proposal. Original plans called for all the construction to take place on the East Boston side of the city line bisecting the property.
Suffolk Downs’s strategy to stay alive in the fight for the sole Greater Boston resort casino license is to shift the proposal entirely into Revere, separate the casino from the racetrack, and — critically — convince the commission that the positive Revere vote two weeks ago remains valid for a new proposal.
Suffolk Downs must make the Revere vote stick because, under state law and commission deadlines, there is not enough time to hold another vote and the commission has been reluctant to extend its deadlines.
Public officials in Revere have been supportive of a revised casino plan, but Boston politicians have begun to line up against it. Michelle Wu and Michael Flaherty — who on Nov. 5 each won seats on the Boston City Council — have joined the fray.
“The suggestion that permitting gaming operations only on the fifty-three acres of the site situated in Revere would fulfill the spirit and intent of the Gaming Act is preposterous,” Flaherty wrote in a recent letter to the commission.
Wu issued a three-page letter Wednesday arguing that, “Voters in East Boston decisively voted ‘No’ to a casino at Suffolk Downs. Because of that, voters in Revere approved a proposal that is no longer viable.”
State Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein, who represents Revere, however, enthusiastically backed the Revere-only resort casino. “As someone who was involved in crafting the gaming legislation, I am confident that this possible development site is viable,” Reinstein wrote to the commission Wednesday.
Mayor Dan Rizzo of Revere told commissioners in person on Thursday that the host agreement the city signed with the developers anticipated future development in Revere, and includes language allowing the deal to be reopened to reflect the new circumstances.
About 60 percent of Revere voters endorsed the casino on Nov. 5. Rizzo said an all-Revere casino would have been approved by “an even greater landslide.”
The language in the host community agreement highlighted by Rizzo and by Suffolk Downs says that if the track “seeks to expand its gaming establishment onto the Revere property,” the track’s owners “shall promptly notify the city and the parties shall negotiate in good faith an amendment to this agreement.”
But opponents pointed to language that suggests Revere was not expecting development anytime soon on the Revere side of the property, and argued that city voters could not have reasonably foreseen that the project could wind up entirely in their community.
“As planned, the project would be constructed within the municipal boundaries of the city of Boston and no new significant construction is currently proposed on the portion of the property located in the city” of Revere, the agreement states.
Matt Cameron, a lawyer representing No Eastie Casino, told commissioners in a letter, “It would fly in the face of the statute, the regulations, public policy, and basic democratic principles for this commission to permit the applicant to effectively retrofit the outcome of this referendum to meet its needs.”
The commission decided Thursday to further study the host agreements, ballot question, and law, and then talk again about how to proceed.