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High turnout reported in Revere casino vote

By late afternoon, there were no official turnout estimates available from city officials, but poll workers in Revere reported a steady flow of voters throughout the day for Tuesday’s referendum on Mohegan Sun’s proposal to build a $1.3 billion resort style casino at Suffolk Downs.

“I think the [turnout] has been equally steady citywide,” said Joan Regan, a poll supervisor at St. Mary’s Church in west Revere.

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By mid-afternoon, nearly 1,000 voters had cast ballots at the church, the polling place for Ward 6, precincts 1 and 2.

Among the first voters was Revere mayor Dan Rizzo, who cast his ballot at about 8 a.m., Regan said.

Jane DeFronzo, 64, said she voted “yes” after casting her ballot just before 2 p.m. at St. Mary’s.

“It’s either going here or to Everett,” said DeFronzo, who walked to the polls from her apartment nearby. “I’d like to see Revere get some money out of this.”

Across the city on Broadway, the Reverend George Szal, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, stood holding two “No Casino” sings.

“Short term gains, long term pains,” Szal said, explaining his opposition. “This casino will not fulfill its promise. It might provide provide some jobs in the beginnings but they won’t last.”

Szal said he was among the first in line, at 7 a.m. at Revere High School to cast his “no” vote.

The battle lines between supporters and opponents were clearly drawn. Cars, trucks, and even a mini-bus circled the city, plastered with red and blue “Vote Yes” signs or yellow and red “No Casino” signs.

Volunteers from each camp held signs outside many of the city’s 21 polling locations, which included schools, churches, and fire stations.

They waved to motorists and flashed “thumbs up” whenever drivers beeped in support.

More than 200 workers are staffing the city’s 21 polling places. Revere has 25,680 registered voters, and a flurry of new registrations were made in the run-up to the election.

Voters will be asked to decide if Mohegan Sun should be allowed to develop a casino on 52 acres of land on the Revere side of Suffolk Downs, a 160-acre thoroughbred race track that also lies in East Boston.

The Revere Beach-themed development would include two hotels, chic shops and restaurants, and a 24-hour casino overlooking the race track.

The outcome will determine if Mohegan Sun will remain a contender in the state’s casino sweepstakes.

A “yes” vote will allow the project to advance before the state’s gambling commission.

A “no” vote would kill the project, since the state’s gambling law requires local approval.

Mohegan Sun is competing against Wynn Resorts of Las Vegas for the one license to operate a resort casino in Greater Boston, which is expected to be awarded by the state gambling commission in May or June.

Wynn proposes to build a $1 billion resort casino on vacant industrial land on the Mystic River. Everett voters last June approved that project, voting 86 percent in favor.

In Revere, the ballot will include a summary of key economic benefits of a host community agreement, a key requirement of the state’s gambling law.

Mohegan Sun’s agreement with Revere calls for the Connecticut-based casino company to make a one-time payment of $33 million to the city, plus annual payments of $25 million to $30 million.

Revere residents also would receive hiring preference for the estimated 2,500 temporary construction jobs, and 4,000 permanent jobs expected to be created if the project is approved.

Still, Mohegan’s proposal has unleashed heated debate among city residents. On Sunday, supporters and opponents held dueling rallies trying to convince voters to approve or defeat the project.

Tuesday’s election will mark the second time since November that Revere voters have been asked to approve a casino at Suffolk Downs.

An earlier proposal, which did not identify a casino operator, won 60 percent of the vote. But the proposal was soundly defeated in East Boston.

Suffolk Downs then partnered with Mohegan Sun to propose a new project to be built solely in Revere.

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