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Revere casino backers, foes clash at public meeting

An aerial view of Suffolk Downs.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File

An aerial view of Suffolk Downs.

It is a boon to Revere and the region that will create thousands of jobs and provide a revenue stream to greatly improve public services.

It is a disaster that will bring increased traffic and crime to the area while eroding the social fabric of communities and siphoning customers away from local restaurants and other businesses.

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Those were the competing, familiar arguments made on Tuesday during a hearing before the state Gaming Commission that was held to allow backers and opponents of a proposed Mohegan Sun casino on the Revere side of the Suffolk Downs racetrack to speak up on the project.

Much of the hearing seemed to pit Revere officials, who voiced strong support for the casino, against their counterparts in Winthrop, who sounded alarms.

Members of both camps were frequently interrupted by applause from the crowd of more than 200 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston.

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“This proposal is truly transformational for the city of Revere,” said Anthony T. Zambuto, the president of the Revere City Council, who trumpeted the jobs, commercial development, and revenue boost that he said Mohegan Sun would bring to the region.

Joseph Cafarelli, Revere’s police chief, was one of several department heads who said the casino revenue would help his agency, allowing him to beef up his detective and drug units.

But a number of Winthrop town councilors, including Linda J. Calla, warned of pitfalls.

“The increased traffic is going to be detrimental to our little town,” Calla said.

Her colleague, Peter T. Gill, said Mohegan has treated Winthrop in an “insulting” manner by failing to negotiate a fair mitigation package to offset the negative effects in a neighboring city.

Officials, business owners, and residents in neighboring communities including Boston, Chelsea, and Everett also had their say, speaking in favor or against the casino.

The gambling commission will hear public comment on Wednesday on a competing proposal from Wynn Resorts to build a casino on the Mystic River waterfront in Everett.

The commission expects to award the Greater Boston resort casino license to one of the two applicants in May or June.

Mark Arsenault of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.
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