For the first time in recent years, Revere voters rejected the offer of a gambling facility in their city, snubbing their noses at a developer’s proposal to build a slots parlor near Suffolk Downs race track.
In a city-only referendum Tuesday, voters turned down the proposal nearly 2-1, with unofficial results showing a vote of 2,970 to 1,574.
The vote was not binding, so it neither defeats nor advances the slots parlor. But an endorsement by Revere voters could have put the developer in a strong position for a win on Nov. 8, when a similar question will be on the ballot for voters statewide.
Eugene A. McCain Jr., the developer who hopes to build the slots parlor, said he will press forward with the statewide campaign. He attributedthe loss to a last-minute opposition campaign that sent a flood of mailers, automated calls, and online pop-up ads to voters, urging them against his proposal.
“Someone spent a very large amount of money in the last five days on a misinformation campaign,” McCain said.
The vote was a victory for Revere Mayor Brian M. Arrigo and other elected officials representing the city who had come out strongly against the proposal, though they had supported earlier casino projects. Arrigo cast doubt on the developer’s credibility, criticizing him as “fly-by-night” and his paperwork as sloppy. Revere’s elected officials argued that their city should aim higher than a slots parlor, having already lost the opportunity to build a resort-style casino.
“Revere residents know how to separate a good idea from a bad idea,” Arrigo said in a statement Tuesday night.
Twice before, Revere voters had voted in favor of hosting a casino at Suffolk Downs, the mostly defunct race track in their midst.
The first proposal was dashed because it was rejected by their neighbors in East Boston, which the project also spanned.
The second was passed over by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which issued its only Boston-area casino license to a project in neighboring Everett, where Wynn Resorts is now building a $2.1 billion casino.
McCain, a developer who was living in Thailand until he moved to Revere for the project last year, proposed a slots parlor and hotel development in an area just off Revere Beach Parkway. He already has options to buy properties to redevelop, including Lee’s Trailer Park.
Currently, there is no casino license available for McCain to acquire. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has committed licenses for the state’s three casinos; the single licensed slots parlor is already operating in Plainville. The ballot question would allow — but not require — the gaming commission to issue another license.
McCain was surprised by the results in Revere, saying his own polling showed that 65 to 75 percent of voters favored the idea.
He pointed to slim turnout and opposition mailers that suggested his project wouldn’t provide community benefits for the city. City officials have declined to meet with him to negotiate such benefits, he said.
“We’re not accepting that the citizens of Revere are saying no,” McCain said. “We still believe that the majority of registered voters in the city of Revere are in favor of it, so we will still continue to press our case here in Revere and try to overcome the misinformation that’s been dumped on the community.”
The special election was scheduled just about a month ago, after unsuccessful legal efforts by the city of Revere to block it. With 27,000 voters in Revere, the referendum drew turnout of less than 17 percent.