City officials and Mohegan Sun executives – including the company’s chief executive officer – hit the campaign trail this week greeting residents and asking voters to get out and vote ‘yes’ for the casino proposal in the Feb. 25 citywide referendum.
Chief among those gatherings was Monday night at the Jack Satter House, where about 50 to 60 residents gathered in the dining hall to listen to Mayor Dan Rizzo, Ward 5 Councillor John Powers, an elected official from Pennsylvania and even Mohegan CEO Bobby Soper preach the benefits of a ‘yes’ vote.
The message was quite simple: we need you.
Mayor Dan Rizzo said the senior citizen-only building on Revere Beach was vital to the cause of passing the referendum. Because the vote comes in the dead of winter, officials said just about anything can happen. With a voting booth inside the Satter House and the older population that votes in high numbers and is regarded as favorable to casino gambling, officials said it’s the kind of location even a snow storm cannot foil.
“This is a very, very important building to us,” said Rizzo. “You all hold the keys to the very important vote we are going to have this coming Feb. 25. You guys are a big voting block and a very important voting block as it pertains to the project.”
Added Powers, “This is a very important building - the Jack Satter House – probably the most important building for this referendum in Revere. This building is important because you vote. We can have a major snowstorm and this building can still put us over the top…We are so impacted right now with a lack of services…We need that money.”
The Satter House forum is one of the last on a long list of public meetings (there was also a rescheduled meeting at Casa Lucia on Tuesday night, too late for Journal deadlines) hosted by Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs throughout the community since late December when the Revere casino project gathered new life following a compromise espoused by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) that let the project continue.
That compromise called for a second referendum vote of Revere voters – the first vote having passed on Nov. 5, but with an accompanying vote in East Boston failing. With that call for a second vote, Mohegan executives and City officials began hitting the campaign trail for a second time.
There have been forums in nearly every ward of the City, along with coffee hours, phone banking parties and official City Hall meetings.
Recently, some of the questions at those forums have focused on efforts mounted by the various opposition, anti-casino groups, and pro-casino officials have used the forums to explain their side of the claims. Such was the case Monday night at the Satter House when questions arose about literature mailed out over the past two weeks from an anti-casino group casting aspersions against Mohegan’s project financier, the New York City hedge fund Brigade Capital.
“If you have a $1.3 billion deal, somebody has to finance that,” Suffolk COO Chip Tuttle told the crowd. “If you buy a $250,000 house, you put down $50,000 and mortgage $200,000. We have a $15 billion hedge fund called Brigade Capital financing the project. Suffolk Downs is the landlord and we have leased 42 acres of our property to Mohegan Sun. Mohegan Sun will own and operate the facility and will run it. Brigade is the company that’s going to finance it.”
Though he gave no explicit proof, Councillor Powers said he has heard talk of people from Everett coming over to Revere to try and defeat the referendum vote – thus allowing Everett to reap the benefits of the competing casino proposal from Steve Wynn.
“So many people are talking about ‘No Casino, No Casino,’ and it makes me sick because these people have a vested interest,” he said. “They want to take the money from Revere and give it to Everett.”
The other part of the forums has been explaining the benefits in detail – such as the host community agreement, the planned priorities for casino monies coming to the City and the traffic mitigation plan.
Traffic has been a constant question, and Tuttle and Rizzo have routinely explained that they will create an easy entry and exit situation.
“It’s very simple,” said Tuttle. “Who would invest $1.3 billion in a casino that no one could get to? Nobody has more interest in fixing the roads than us…We’re here to make sure people can get in and out as quickly as possible.”
Others have had concerns about the possibility that the MGC would choose not to award a casino license at all – something at least two residents asked about on Monday night.
“The technical answer is ‘yes’ that could happen, but given all the work we’ve done and all the work they’ve done, that would be a very disappointing outcome,” said Tuttle. “I can’t imagine that would happen.”
Others have asked about crime and what the casino would do to mitigate crime.
“I’ve heard a lot of naysayers talk about increased crime,” said Powers. “All you have to do is read the local paper right now and it will tell you all you need to know about crime. There are stabbings, shootings, car breaks and assaults. The only way we’ll mitigate that crime is with dollars that will come from the casino…I wouldn’t come in here tonight and tell you, my friends, to support casino gaming if I didn’t think it was the right thing for Revere.”
The talk also contained a message from Suffolk Downs owner Richard Fields, who implored the crowd to vote for the casino in order to save the race track, saying they need the casino money to dramatically increase purses that will compete with other tracks in the Northeast.
“I made a commitment to everybody in the community that we would be good stewards,” he said. “We would not only keep the track open, but also enhance it. My vision has always been to enhance racing because it’s a very important part of the fabric of the community. Seven years later we are on the verge of fulfilling that promise…The truth of the matter is it does come down to you. We need your support to keep the track open.”