JP residents could vote on Eastie casino

January 6, 2012
By

JP residents should have the chance to vote on a casino development project in East Boston, local elected officials say.

Under a recently passed state law authorizing three casinos and one slot parlor in Massachusetts, Boston City Council has the power to decide whether development plans for a casino in Boston will be subject to a local ward-only or a citywide binding referendum.

It is all but assured that the owners of East Boston’s long-struggling Suffolk Downs racetrack will propose that a casino be located there. The vote will be part of the approval of any proposal that is put forward.

Local elected officials the Gazette spoke to last week said there are plenty of good reasons for JP residents to weigh in.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley told the Gazette that it is not clear which way the council will go on the vote, but he supports a citywide referendum.

“There is no [private] Ward One police force, fire department or emergency medical service,” City Councilor Matt O’Malley said, referring to the East Boston ward where Suffolk Downs is located. “It really affects everyone in the city.”

O’Malley said that he supports the concept of a casino at Suffolk Downs. “I would likely vote for it,” he said, because it would be “a driver for economic development.”

State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, who opposed the casino bill, put forward an unsuccessful amendment that would have required a citywide vote in Boston.

Not allowing Boston residents to vote on a casino plan is “taxation without representation,” she said.

Homeowners—and, indirectly, renters—will end up paying for traffic mitigation, extra law enforcement and other public costs that come with casinos, she said.

“Tons of people in JP want to see more community police officers walking the beat,” Chang-Díaz said, but if a casino is built there, “more police resources will be pulled over to East Boston.”

Chang-Díaz said she is not sure whether in the end a casino would be a boon or a burden for the city. But, she said, it is going to be important for all city residents to pay close attention to how any plan put forward by developers to mitigate potential negative impacts is structured.

“We have to have a level of humility about making these deals,” she said, noting that they are sometimes reworked by developers as construction costs and profit margins fluctuate.

The casino bill requires municipality-wide referendums for most cities and towns in the Commonwealth, making it optional only for the state’s largest cities.

  • Anonymous

    Some thoughts on casinos – in no particular order:
    It’s been proven that a casino draws from a 50-mile radiusThe promise of jobs is a myth.True, there are good construction jobs in the building phase, but that is only for 12 to 18 months
    After that the jobs are mainly parttime, minimum wage, no benefits positions such as chamber maid or parking valetCasino owners admit that they get 90% of their income from 10% of the gamblersIt is to these people that they advertise, give free drinks, send coupons for free gambling and these are the people most likely to be addictedElectronic slot machines are known as the crack cocaine of the casino industryWhen one buys a card to use in the machines, personal information becomes part of the record
    One can play a new slot game within seconds of playing the previous oneThe faster one plays, the more addictive the process
    Casinos have ATM’s where one can “refill” the card
    They also have loan offices so gamblers can refinance their cars and mortgagesOne of the more common crimes in Connecticut is committed by middle aged women who are in  positions of trust where money is concerned (paralegal, town treasurer, etc.) who embezzle to feed their slot habitSince casinos have entertainment venues, shops and restaurants, people bypass local businesses and go straight to the casinoMohegan Sun has a gas station where one can use “wampam”. Local gas stations are passed by
    Most casinos contract with entertainers, saying that they cannot appear withing [so many] miles of the casino. They can also pay more than the locals.
    Local theaters and other art venues are hurt by thisThe mayor of N. Ledyard has been quoted as saying the only businesses in town that have increased business are Dunkin’ Donuts and the bail bondsmenMany businesses have closed upBecause casinos bring in workers from all over the world, the city of Norwich, CT has approximatly 30 different languages spoken in the schools and must supply English as a Second Language for EACH oneBecause of the increased traffic, local roads are negatively impactedMore repairs, wideningIn addition, there are public safety issuesMore police needed to deal with speeding, drunk driving, etc.There is more crime in the local area
    theft, prostitution, etc.
    In Palmer, Mohegan Sun has said the traffic on a weekday would be approximately 2,500 cars and on weekends 10,000 – that, however many of those (10%) would arrive via the Mass Turnpike. This still leaves 2,000 to 9,000 ADDITIONAL cars on the roads and streets.
    The Quaboag Valley Against Casinos (www.palmer.casinofacts.org) held a traffic simulation. They had less than 100 cars, driving a loop around the center of town for an hour.They completely tied up traffic!
    Also in Palmer there is a question of how to supple enough water. They are having to look towards bringing it from the Quabbin Reservoir, at a cost of millions, even if they can get permission to do this
    Many casinos are called “destination” or “resort” casinos. One can say this about Las Vegas, but I don’t believe many from outside the local area patronizes these
    And look at Atlantic City. A block or so outside the casinos is a war zone
    Revenue at almost all casinos in the US is down, even Las Vegas
    Foxwoods has laid off hundredsMohegan Sun is in serious financial trouble and have had to stop building an additionTwin Rivers in Rhode Island is bankrupt and the state has had to decide if they are going to take it over

  • Anonymous

    Having listened to Senator Chang-Diaz testify in the Senate Chambers, what I witnessed was a well-informed, article lawmaker who had conducted her research.

    Sadly, julie, you are misleading people with a $40,000 a year job.

    This is grossly untrue. 

    The jobs that are available to local residents will be mostly low wage, minimum wage jobs, many part time, offering no benefits and wages so low, Massachusetts taxpayers will be forced to subsidize their wages with food stamps and health insurance.

    Those out of state ‘visitors’? Let’s be honest, Julie. They don’t exist.

    Most patrons of a Suffolk Down Slot Barn will be local. And we all know that Gambling Addiction increases within a 50 mile radius, and along with that CRIME.

    Studies have determined that for every $1 in Gambling Revenue paid to the state, the cost to taxpayers is $3.

    In the case of Suffolk Downs, the cost to Massachusetts taxpayers is + $500 million for infrastructure improvements alone. And there there’s the pesky little cost of eminent domain property that is required.

    Of all of the locations possible, Suffolk Downs is the biggest taxpayer scam there is.

    There is no ‘economic spin off.’

    Senator Chang-Diaz got it right! What a shame Massachusetts voters don’t have more lawmakers like her.

  • julieq

    Stupidity should not pass for common sense.

    Chang-Diaz, from the beginning, has been an outspoken moral opponent to casinos.   That’s her prerogative, no matter how uninformed she may be.

    But her incessant refusal to accept any fiscal and economic development initiatives that do not pass her rigid moral test is a prime example of the level of intellectual dishonesty that passes for “vision” among the politically correct.

    She, of all people, should understand the value and importance of diversity — not just the diversity of race, color and creed, but the diversity of fiscal and economic initiatives.   Ensuring that Massachusetts’ economy is diverse — high tech, traditional manufacturing, tourism and hospitality,  small business, and yes, gambling and entertainment — grows the ability of our Commonwealth to withstand downturns in one economic sector and to ensure fewer negative impacts on other economic sectors.

    It also ensures people of all socio-economic rungs — be they the poor, working poor, lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class and the affluent; high school dropouts, high school graduates, those with associate, bachelors, masters and Ph.d degrees — are able to find employment throughout our state’s diverse economic sectors.

    Sadly, Chang-Diaz does not understand that there are people in this state who would relish a job paying $40,000 annually that provides health care and other benefits, just as there are people in this state who would also welcome jobs paying from $75-$100K and above.   All of those jobs — from $40K to $100K and above — exist within world-class destination resort casinos.

    But Chang-Diaz’s principal failure of vision is not being able to grasp the benefits that would accrue to our greater Boston region and to her own state senate district if there is a world-class destination resort casino at Suffolk Downs.

    That facility will undoubtedly spend upwards of $300 million every year for goods and services to furnish and to operate the casino, and much of that spending will occur among Boston-based businesses to supply the goods and services.

    It will also undoubtedly lure millions of visitors from outside of Massachusetts to Boston — be they domestic and international pleasure and business visitors, or conventions and meetings that will now consider Boston as a site for major conventions on par with New York City, Las Vegas and Orlando.   That, too, will plenty of visitors to our city’s restaurants and hotels, many of which exist in Chang-Diaz’s own district — and that creates jobs!

    If Chang-Diaz’s vision ever takes hold in our city, Boston will become an economic wasteland — and the Commonwealth won’t be far behind.

Best of JP 2014