Massachusetts voters resoundingly rejected a proposal to expand the state’s fledgling casino law to allow for an additional slots parlor, which overseas developers had proposed building near Suffolk Downs racetrack in Revere.
With 73 percent of the vote tallied, Question 1 was defeated 61-39 percent. Question 1 would have authorized the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to license a second slots parlor, in addition to the one already operating in Plainville. The 2011 state law that legalized gambling allowed for only one slots parlor license, as well as three resort-style casino licenses in distinct geographic areas to limit competition.
Opponents said the results showed voters would not be easily swayed by a well-funded campaign by offshore developers.
“Anybody who wants to mess around with the state legislative process, they’d better think twice because we’re savvy here in Massachusetts. Don’t underestimate us,” said gambling opponent Celeste Ribeiro Myers. “We know we deserve nothing but the best.”
Her opposition group raised just $5,200 but benefited from strange bedfellows, when the casino group Wynn Resorts formed a parallel opposition committee that raised $30,000 as of last week. Wynn won the only casino license offered in Greater Boston and is building a $2.1 billion casino in neighboring Everett.
The ballot initiative and slots parlor near Suffolk Downs were proposed by an American-born developer, Eugene A. McCain Jr., who had been living in Thailand until he moved to Revere for the project last year.
His campaign aired ads that claimed the slots parlor would raise $88 million in revenue for the state, boosting funding for police and schools, based on the revenue generated from the Plainville slots parlor. However, McCain declined to name his investors, generating skepticism from elected officials and voters in Revere, who voted down the project in an Oct. 18 city referendum.
“The reality is that we didn’t do enough to get our message out,” said Jason Osborne, chairman of the pro-slots committee. He said McCain, who had already negotiated agreements to buy properties to develop in Revere, would likely push forward with a hotel development there.
Campaign finance documents filed last week revealed that much of the campaign’s $3.2 million came from Bridge Capital LLC, a Saipan-based investment company whose principals have launched slots proposals around the world and whose involvement McCain had previously denied. Those developers have a spotty record with licensing in the United States and their casino in Laos was seized by the government last year amid allegations of bribery and money laundering.
“Voters clearly recognized that Question 1 only benefitted a small group of foreign investors who attempted to use a statewide ballot question for personal gain,” said Robert DeSalvio, president of Wynn Boston Harbor. “It’s gratifying to see that millions of dollars of spending could not sway voters to circumvent the gaming laws and open the door for a slot parlor to be built in anyone’s backyard.”