Casinos bet big on getting out the yes vote
Another day, another casino referendum in Massachusetts.
Today, the good people of Revere are heading to the polls to vote again on whether they want a casino in their backyard. I won’t wager a guess on the outcome, but I will say that the gaming industry has spent a lot of money across the state to get out the yes vote.
Perhaps no one has spent more than the supporters of Suffolk Downs, the horse track that has been angling for what seems like an eternity to build a gambling palace.
Last November, Revere residents said overwhelmingly yes to a casino, but their neighbors in East Boston voted no, which was enough to scuttle Suffolk Downs’s original proposal for a casino in Eastie.
Revere residents now go it alone to approve a new plan for a $1.3 billion Mohegan Sun casino on its side of the horse track.
So far, the pro-Suffolk Downs faction has shelled out nearly $3.3 million over two votes, of which Mohegan Sun has kicked in $400,000, according to state campaign filings.
That translates to roughly $35 a head in Revere and East Boston, and it’s likely the final numbers will show Suffolk supporters spent even more in the homestretch to today’s vote.
To the industry, it’s all loose change, really, like gamblers finding a few extra quarters at the bottom of a slot machine. But good for the poster makers, caterers, and others that have been given work to fuel their campaigns.
Not all casino companies, however, have had to be big campaign spenders.
Steve Wynn, which is staring down Suffolk Downs for the Boston license, doled out less than half-million dollars, or about $10 per capita, to get out the vote in Everett. A whopping 86.5 percent of voters approved the casino. Free beer doesn’t even get you out that kind of turnout.
MGM Resorts, which is proposing to build a $800 million casino in Springfield, spent about $1.8 million, or about $12 a head, on its campaign. It was a good bet. MGM is the lone applicant for the western Massachusetts casino license, outlasting at least four other competitors.
But sometimes it doesn’t matter how much money you can throw around.
Hard Rock International spent just under $1 million, or nearly $35 per capita, trying to convince the residents of West Springfield they need more gaming and guitars in their backyard. The effort was to no avail -- voters rejected the proposal.
To win the casino game in Massachusetts, sometimes you need to know when to hold’em — and to fold’em.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the Hard Rock casino proposal vote in West Springfield. The proposal was rejected by residents.