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Gambling panel to rule on Revere casino plan

Everett land deal also before panel

A group showed support Sunday for Suffolk Downs’ plan to locate its casino solely in Revere after East Boston rejected it.

PAT GREENHOUSE/GLOBE STAFF

A group showed support Sunday for Suffolk Downs’ plan to locate its casino solely in Revere after East Boston rejected it.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission faces a pivotal week in which it will decide whether to keep alive the Suffolk Downs gambling proposal while its chairman faces questions about his impartiality over the only other bidder for the sole license to operate a casino in Greater Boston.

On Tuesday the commission is scheduled to decide whether a vote in November in which Revere residents supported a casino would authorize a new plan by Suffolk Downs to base its resort facility solely within the Revere portion of its property.

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The previous plan had Suffolk Downs locating its facility on the Boston side of its grounds, but voters in East Boston rejected the casino plan. Suffolk Downs has since teamed up with the operators of the Mohegan Sun resort in Connecticut, and proposed moving the casino to the smaller section of its property in Revere.

Then, on Friday the state commission is scheduled to consider gambling mogul Steve Wynn’s purchase of land in Everett for a casino, but without its influential chairman, Stephen Crosby, involved in the debate. Crosby recused himself from the vote because he has a past business relationship with a co-owner of the Everett property, Paul Lohnes.

On Sunday the Boston Globe reported that Crosby knew Lohnes co-owned the Everett land when Wynn toured the site in November 2012 but waited until August, when investigators began looking into Lohnes’s business partners, to tell Governor Deval Patrick that the men had been friends since they served in the National Guard together in the 1970s.

After Crosby filed a detailed disclosure in late October, the state Ethics Commission advised him that he could continue to vote on matters related to the Everett land.

But critics told the Globe that Crosby should recuse himself from any vote related to the Greater Boston casino license.

On Monday the commission will move on another major front when it reviews the suitability of MGM Resorts International, the only remaining applicant for the Western Massachusetts license. MGM has proposed operating a casino in Springfield.

The Suffolk Downs proposal, meanwhile, is expected to draw intense lobbying from both supporters and opponents.

On Sunday, nearly 100 supporters huddled in the bitter cold outside Suffolk Downs in a show of solidarity for the Revere proposal.

“I’m a painter, and I’m all for it,” said Howard Wolff, 50, who said he has been out of work for two months. “Hopefully I’ll have employment right here. I only live six blocks away.”

Wolff and others were gathered at Tomesello Way and Winthrop Avenue in Revere, just feet from the site where Mohegan Sun hopes to build.

The Connecticut gambling giant’s alliance with Suffolk Downs was announced in late November, after the votes in Revere and East Boston, and more than a month after the track’s previous partner, Caesars Entertainment, withdrew over state investigators’ concerns about its business dealings.

State Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein, a Revere Democrat, said bringing new jobs to the blue-collar city was the point of the state legislation authorizing casino gaming.

“I hope the gaming commission will realize that Revere knew what we voted for and we just want the respect that we deserve,” she said.

Louis Ciarlone, 61, president of the union representing workers at Suffolk Downs, said the casino plan is the last hope for saving the cash-strapped racetrack and the hundreds of jobs it provides.

“We feel as though we just completed a Hail Mary pass and we’re in overtime,” he said.

Meanwhile an anticasino group said Sunday that more than 30 religious leaders from East Boston and Revere would send a letter to the gambling commission asking it to disallow Suffolk Downs’ proposal.

The letter from the clergy notes the Nov. 5 ballot question specifically stated that Suffolk Downs could not pursue a gambling license without the support of East Boston voters, and allowing it to proceed now would “subvert the very democratic process that has been foundational for our Commonwealth.”

Casino proponents statewide face a Dec. 31 deadline to get mitigation packages approved by local voters.

If the commission decides the Revere vote is not applicable to the new plan, it will end Suffolk Downs’ bid for the Greater Boston license, one of three established by the state casino law.

Mark Arsenault of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.
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