Are Winthrop Residents Excited About a Casino in Neighboring Eastie?: Powers: Let’s Put It to a Vote and Find Out

Thursday, September 22, 2011
By Cary Shuman

Councilor-at-Large Larry Powers would like to know whether Winthrop residents are in favor or opposed to the construction of a casino/resort complex at Suffolk Downs in East Boston.

At Tuesday night’s Council meeting, Powers made a motion to hold a town wide referendum vote on the issue, but Councilor-at-Large Philip Boncore tabled the measure, saying he hasn’t read the entire 165-page casino legislation that was passed by the House of Representatives. The Council will vote on Powers’ motion at its Oct. 4 meeting.

Suffolk Downs has been mentioned as a possible site for one of three casinos that would be built in the state. The State Senate still must pass the casino bill before it goes to the desk of Governor Deval Patrick.

“I want Winthrop residents to be able to vote up or down whether they want a casino at Suffolk Downs,” said Powers. “I want to give the town of Winthrop the authority to vote on any referendum question that comes up on the placement of a casino at Suffolk Downs.”

Powers would like to have the vote take place prior to Suffolk Downs being granted a casino license.

Powers’ Winthrop referendum would be non-binding. In the casino bill passed by the House, only the host communities (East Boston and Revere in the case of Suffolk Downs) would hold referendums on the construction of a casino at Suffolk.

“I think we could have voted on my motion [Tuesday night] but that’s Councilor’s Boncore right to table it for two weeks,” said Powers.

Winthrop resident John Ribiero, a prominent leader in the effort against the expansion of gambling in the Bay State, appeared before the Council Tuesday night. One of the options that his group, Neighbors of Suffolk Downs, suggested was a referendum vote by Winthrop residents “to approve or deny a license to any party seeking to conduct Class 3 gambling with a 10-mile radius of the town.”

Ribiero said the casino issue is front and center on the minds of Winthrop residents.

“The more people I talk to and the more people that understand anything about the casino – the more people are concerned about it,” said Ribiero, who was joined at the meeting by some of his supporters. “If and when the casino bill does happen to pass, we would want to have a vote in Winthrop for a casino that’s going to be built nearby – therefore we would be at the table for negotiations for mitigation money and funding if there were a casino.”

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