- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - A large voter turnout is anticipated in Revere on Tuesday for a referendum that will decide whether Mohegan Sun can move forward with its proposal to build a $1.3 billion resort casino on land owned by the Suffolk Downs thoroughbred racetrack.

The proposal emerged after voters in East Boston rejected an earlier plan by Suffolk Downs to build a casino along the Boston-Revere border. Revere voters had approved of that plan, but the Massachusetts Gaming Commission ruled that another vote must be held because of the dramatically different nature of the Mohegan Sun proposal, which would sit entirely in Revere.

A host community agreement reached in December would guarantee the city up to $33 million in upfront payments and between $25 million and $30 million in annual payments if the casino was built.

Mayor Dan Rizzo is lobbying residents to approve the plan, saying it will “transform” the city and secure its economic future for generations to come. He has also suggested that revenues from the casino could be used to build a new high school in the coastal city.

“No other proposal in the history of our city has ever offered the benefits to individuals, families, and local businesses like this does,” Rizzo said.

Casino opponents say any financial windfall would be offset by the negative impacts of gambling.

“We know there is going to be an increase in crime, addiction, poverty and a general decrease in the quality of life in Revere,” said Joe Catricala, co-chair of the group Don’t Gamble on Revere.

Catricala, 29, said he commutes daily to a job in Boston and is skeptical of Mohegan Sun’s plans for alleviating traffic congestion.

Religious leaders of several faiths held a news conference earlier in the month to urge defeat of the referendum, arguing a casino would bring more social ills to Revere.

Opponents, however, concede they face an uphill fight.

According to a campaign finance report filed on Feb. 8, Mohegan Sun contributed $400,000 to a committee formed to help win passage of the referendum.

Don’t Gamble on Revere said it had raised just over $11,000 through Feb. 7, according to its report. The group has alleged heavy-handed campaign tactics by elected city leaders who back the casino.

The state’s 2011 expanded gambling law allows for three regional resort casinos in Massachusetts. If Revere voters approve Tuesday’s referendum, Mohegan Sun will be in competition for the east region license with Wynn Resorts, which has proposed a $1.6 billion casino along the Mystic River in Everett, only a few miles from the Revere site.

The gambling commission has said it expects to award the license by May 30.

While it would have no direct role in operating the casino, Suffolk Downs has pledged to use proceeds from its Mohegan Sun lease to guarantee continued racing at the track for at least 15 years.

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