The Casino Chaos Comes To Town, Part One Million

Weekend drama in Revere is reminiscent of pretty much everything else having to do with casinos in Massachusetts.

Here we go again: the Herald has the story this morning of tensions boiling over at a pro-casino rally in Revere over the weekend. The paper reports that anti-casino advocate Charles Lightbody was charged with punching 60-year-old Louis Ciarlone, who leads a Suffolk Downs’ employees union. Ciarlone claimed to the Herald that Lightbody broke his schnoz:

“He struck me twice and then threatened to kill me,” Ciarlone said. “His attack was completely unprovoked and his threats have me concerned about my safety and the safety of my family.”

Lightbody, 59, was charged by Revere cops with assault and battery on a person over 60, his attorney Tim Flaherty said, claiming self-defense: “Any striking which is attributed to Mr. Lightbody was done after he was struck in the face with a campaign placard while he was simply exercising his right to free speech.”

Meanwhile, No Eastie Casino c0-chair Celeste Meyers claimed to the Herald that the pro-casino forces were ripping down her group’s signs. “There are neighbors who have known each other for 30 years who aren’t talking to each other,” East Boston state rep Carlo Basile told the paper. “People are taking it very personal.”

This is not the first instance of this type of casino-bred chaos. Remember all the drama in Foxboro? In April of last year, when Steve Wynn and Bob Kraft were still pitching their plans for the town, cops arrested a casino supporter after he threatened town selectman Mark Sullivan with death unless he changed his anti-casino stance. After the incident, Sullivan felt compelled to send his family away to an “undisclosed location.” Then, before a big vote in December, Sullivan said he was receiving so many phone calls per day that he had to leave his cell in the garage. “I never expected anything like this when I ran for selectman,” he told me back then. “We’ve had some controversial things in the past, but this is town altering and life changing forever. I was pretty shook up for a couple of days.”

And then there’s the case of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, on its slow march to one day (maybe!) opening a casino on what they hope will be tribal land in Taunton. First, there was the drama of tribe chairman Glenn Marshall, who resigned in disgrace once word came out that he was a convicted rapist who’d lied about his military service and was then sent to jail for embezzling tribe funds and steering illegal political donations alongside Jack Abramoff. A couple years ago, in a magazine profile of Marshall’s successor, Cedric Cromwell, I found that the tribe was still racked with division over how the casino is being pursued. And that’s to say nothing of how bitterly divided Middleboro, the town in which the Wampanoags had first agreed to locate their casino before Cromwell pulled out of the deal, became during and after its dealings with the tribe.

Right now, we’re at least two years from any casino actually opening in Massachusetts. But suffice it to say, the circus has already come to town.