Hard to handicap Revere slots vote

Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo (Item file photo)

By Thomas Grillo

REVERE — More than two years after Revere overwhelmingly approved a resort-style casino for Suffolk Downs, a nonbinding ballot question asks voters on Tuesday to greenlight a slots parlor near the shuttered horse race track.

On one side is investor Eugene McCain, who said his casino would generate more than $80 million in new revenues for the state annually — $12 million to support horse racing, $5 million for Revere and 500 new jobs. On the opposite side is Mayor Brian Arrigo, who argues that a slots parlor is the wrong kind of economic development for the city.  

McCain, managing director of Alliante Capital, who said he lives in Revere, is betting on a complicated process that involves local approval for the Revere site and a statewide thumbs-up for an additional slots parlor on the November ballot.

Still, if the plan is approved at the local and state level, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission would have to sign off on the second slots parlor. Observers say such an outcome seems doubtful since it would upend rules of two casinos and one slot parlor that were agreed upon prior to the start of issuing licenses.

The Gaming Commission awarded a resort casino license for the $2 billion Wynn Boston Harbor project in Everett, the $950 million MGM in Springfield and the $250 Plainridge Park Casino, a slots parlor in Plainville.

Tuesday’s initiative petition seeks any future slot parlor license awarded in Revere to be located on a site that fronts Revere Beach Parkway, Winthrop Parkway and Pratt Court. McCain has an option to buy the parcels for more than $6.5 million.

Next month, statewide ballot Question 1 seeks voter determination to allow for an additional slot parlor license in Massachusetts. Under state law, one slots parlor is allowed and the rules would have to be amended to add a second.

McCain said a poll he had commissioned shows more than 70 percent of voters said gambling was up to the individual.  

“There’s enormous support for this project here and yet the mayor is against it,” said McCain. “We would not continue this effort if we had not received such overwhelming support in the city. But their enthusiasm has not yet impacted the mayor’s office.”

The idea has not received the public support from any of the city’s elected officials.

“This isn’t about being pro or anti-gaming,” Arrigo said. “It’s about being for good ideas and against bad ideas. While we are a pro-gaming community, this is a very bad idea.”  

Former Mayor Dan Rizzo championed the original casino proposal two years ago, arguing that it would be an answer to the city’s economic future. At the time, he said a host community agreement with Mohegan Sun guaranteed Revere up to $33 million in upfront payments and between $25 million and $30 million in annual payments if the casino was built.

But Arrigo said a slots parlor is not the same as a resort-style casino.

“There’s a big difference between what Mohegan Sun proposed and the slots parlor, they are not even in the same universe,” he said. “Mohegan Sun is well-known while this group dropped out of nowhere without much of a track record.”

Thomas Grillo can be reached at [email protected]

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