REVERE -- A “Vote Yes” rally this afternoon drew more than 400 people to a VFW hall to show their support for a $1 billion resort-style casino proposed by Mohegan Sun at the Suffolk Downs race track.
Many wore red-and-white T-shirts reading “It’s about Revere!” to the rally organized by the Friends of Mohegan Sun, a political action group. They ate classic Revere Beach fare -- finger lobster rolls, clam chowder, chicken fingers, and mini-roast beef sandwiches -- from Kelly’s Roast Beef, a landmark on the crescent-shaped beach.
“It’s about jobs,” said Morris D. Morris, 85, as he waited in line at a crowded buffet. “People around here could use the money. We need to get people working here.”
Matilda Bonfardeci, 45, a mother of two school-age children, said the prospect of a casino promises millions of dollars for the public schools.
“To me that’s a really big thing, the fact that we’ll have money to be used for the school system,” said Bonfardeci, who stood with her daughter, Marcella, 7.
A host community agreement between Mohegan and Revere calls for the Connecticut-based casino company to make a one-time $33 million payment to the city, plus annual payments of $25 million to $30 million.
The agreement also would give hiring preference to Revere residents for the estimated 2,500 temporary construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs. The Revere Beach-themed development would include two hotels, upscale restaurants, and retailers and a full casino.
The rally was planned by Friends of Mohegan Sun, a political action group, just 48 hours before a critical referendum on Tuesday that will determine if Mohegan Sun’s application can advance before the state gambling commission.
Sandy Levin, 77, a volunteer, said she made dozens of calls to Revere residents.
“Only about four told me they wouldn’t vote for it,” said Levin, carrying a plate holding a cup of chowder and a lobster roll. “I think this is going to pass.”
The vote will mark the second time Revere has held a referendum on a casino at Suffolks Downs, which straddles the Revere/East Boston border. In November, Revere residents voted 60 percent in favor of a plan to build the casino on the East Boston side of the 160-acre property. But East Boston voters soundly rejected it.
Suffolk Downs has since teamed up with Mohegan Sun to propose developing the casino on 52 acres on the the Revere side of the property.
Revere city leaders and Mohegan executives are leaving little to chance. They’ve organized phone banks, knocked on doors, and printed up signs and bumper stickers.
Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Sun Tribal Gaming Authority, said he knocked on doors in Revere neighborhood’s before the rally.
“We’ve been getting our message out there about how important this is for Revere,” Etess, said in an interview at the rally. “We’re focused on getting out the vote. We believe that’s the most important thing we can do now.”
Etess said he spent time before the rally knocking on doors, urging support for the casino.
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo issued a similar call for support.
“We have a chance, on Tuesday, to get out and stand up for all of here in this room, and all of us across the city,” said Rizzo, the project’s most vocal proponent.
About an hour before the proponents gathered, some 200 people opposing the casino walked from the Immaculate Conception Church to Revere City Hall, where they heard speakers urge voters to reject the plan.
Residents should reject arguments that the casino will bring compulsive gambling, crime and other social ills to this North Shore city of nearly 53,000 people, Rizzo said.
“Do not buy into the information that’s been put out there by the opposition,” he said. “It’s based on lies and conjecture. We have been telling the truth since the very beginning.”