The Bids for a Boston-Area Casino Are Officially Official
At long last, the field for the Great Boston casino-off is set. On Tuesday, residents of Revere voted to decide the fate of Mohegan Sun’s proposal to build a $1.3 billion casino resort at Suffolk Downs (which, by the way, I think looks like a Jetsons landing pad) and, as expected, passed the referendum by a wide margin, 63 to 37 percent.
You’ll recall that this project was originally set to be a collaboration between Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment, before Caesars was forced to drop out after state investigators raised questions about its business dealings with a man reputed to have ties to the Russian mob. You’ll also recall that this project was originally supposed to be located in both East Boston and Revere, until Eastie residents shot down an Election Day referendum on the plan. That rejection is what caused Suffolk Downs to overhaul their plans at the last minute and move the project entirely to Revere.
Needless to say, there have been many twists and turns (and we haven’t even talked about the lawsuits!). But here we are: most likely in May or June, the state gaming commission will be able to choose between the Suffolk Downs-Mohegan Sun proposal and a competing billion dollar bid from Wynn Resorts, just a few miles away in Everett (and for all the zany background on that project, please read this).
As we head down the stretch-run, you can pretty fairly expect things to get nasty. The Globe‘s Mark Arsenault has done a nice job over the last few months documenting how the elbow-shoving between the competing Boston-area bids has grown increasingly sharp, and there’s little sign of that letting up. At 9:19 p.m. last night, Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle tweeted:
Higher turnout, more yes votes, higher %. More Yes in Revere than total votes in Everett. Onward
— Chip Tuttle (@ChipTuttle) February 26, 2014
Exactly one minute later, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria released a statement saying, “There’s no comparing Everett’s near-90 percent margin of victory to tonight’s vote in Revere, just as there’s no comparison to Wynn’s five-star brand, international drawing power or financial strength in the industry.”
So who’s right? Who had the better vote? The answer is, of course, neither. Here’s why:
So Tuttle is correct that the Revere vote had higher turnout and more yes votes than the Everett referendum, but the Mohegan Sun proposal in fact did not score a higher percentage of support. Meanwhile, in Everett, they’re either just making stuff up or really bad at math. Since their vote passed 86.5-13.5 percent, that means they had a 73 percent margin of victory. I’m pretty sure that 73 percent is not really “near 90 percent.” Guys, passing a vote with 86.5 percent is really impressive. There’s no need to exaggerate.
The lesson here: for the next few months, mud is going to fly hot and heavy between the two competing camps, so take everything you hear with a mill’s worth of salt.
One last thing: As the casino process rushes to a conclusion, we’re all going to hear a lot about how, since East Boston already voted against hosting a casino, it’s wrong to put one just across the city line in Revere. Fair. But what about the neighbors of the Wynn project in Everett? The Wynn site is also just over the municipal border, and is just as close to Somerville and Charlestown as the Mohegan Sun project is to East Boston. And I would bet you a lifetime subscription to Boston magazine (I think I’m allowed to do that) that if Somerville and Charlestown got a vote on whether to have a casino next door, both referenda would go down in flames. We’ve said here for a long time that one of the biggest flaws with the state casino legislation is that it does little to protect neighboring communities (it’s like it never occurred to the lawmakers making the bill that a casino could be located near a town border), and now we’re seeing that problem play out. No matter what happens, there are going to be unhappy neighbors. The choice is just whether they live in Somerville and Charlestown or East Boston.
We’ll have our answer soon.