By: Shraddha Gupta
Statehouse Correspondent, The Sun Chronicle
BOSTON – Proponents of ballot Question 1 argue the plan to build a slot parlor in Revere would offer a bonanza similar to the $88 million in tax revenues and almost 500 jobs Plainridge Park Casino has generated in its first year.
But local and state officials say more time is needed to see if Massachusetts is big enough to handle two slot parlors and three resort casinos.
“I am opposed for the very simple reason that we have only completed one of the four gaming establishments that we licensed in this state. Let’s get them all up and running and work out any issues before we start adding any more to the mix,” state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said in an interview.
The casino law passed by the Legislature in 2011, authorizes three casinos, of which two larger resort-style casinos are under construction in Everett and Springfield.
Under existing law Plainridge would remain the sole electronic gaming facility allowed in the state.
While Question 1 has received enough petition signatures to get on the November ballot, a number of state legislators, and Gov. Charlie Baker agree with Dooley that it is too early to be adding to the mix of proposed gambling sites in the state.
Baker told reporters last week he would rather wait and see the impact the four permitted gambling sites will have on the state.
“I’ve always thought we should be mindful of the fact that we don’t exactly know what the consequences and the impact of all this is going to be when the dust settles on the Lottery and on a whole bunch of other things,” he said. “Let’s wait and see what happens before raising the possibility of yet another facility in Massachusetts.”
The ballot question was filed by developer Eugene McCain, who plans to construct two hotels and a casino on a Revere site near the Suffolk Down racetrack that now houses auto-repair businesses, a bar and a trailer park.
In a debate sponsored last week by The Boston Globe, WBUR, the UMass-Boston McCormack School, David Nealley, a Bangor city councilor, told the audience his city has had tremendous success with a similar project.
“The revenue stream allowed us to rehab our waterfront; connect an entertainment quarter with a brand new civic center with a gaming and hotel complex right through our downtown; enhancing economic activity all over the city, including five new hotels that were built since then and many new restaurants and retail stores,” he said.
Nealley said a new slot parlor could bring in hundreds of new jobs and millions in revenue that Revere desperately needs.
Supporting Nealley’s argument, Jason Osborne, chairman of the Yes to 1 campaign, said the plan offers Revere the same success seen at Plainridge Park.
“I cannot see how people could be opposed to bringing more revenue into the state,” he said.
Celeste Ribeiro Meyers from the Committee for Responsible and Sustainable Economic Development, which is opposing the ballot question, offered a different view.
Meyers said gambling is not a mature industry in Massachusetts, and is unproven.
“We have one facility in the commonwealth so far, and in its maiden year it is currently underperforming,” she said. “And we have not had the opportunity to see other developments bear the fruit that they have promised us.”
Recent figures released by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission show that Plainridge brought in $13.1 million in revenue in August, about $25,000 less per day than it did in July. Compared with last August, revenue fell by more than $2 million, or about 14 percent.
Besides questions about the success of another slot parlor is the issue of gambling fratricide. Revere is next to Everett, which will soon be home to a $2 billion resort-style casino run by Wynn Resorts. Given all the competition that the state will soon have within its borders, Meyers questioned the success of another gambling spot in a potentially saturated market.
“The more facilities that you drop in the state, the more hands there are going to be outstretched to grab the market share,” she said.