BOSTON (AP) - Casino
gambling foes were ecstatic after residents of East Boston and Palmer
rejected proposals for resort casinos in their communities, votes that
could dramatically alter the future landscape
for gambling in Massachusetts.
Voters in the East
Boston neighborhood on Tuesday said no to a proposed $1 billion casino
at the Suffolk Downs thoroughbred race track by a 56-44 percent margin,
according to unofficial returns. The project won
the approval of Revere residents in a separate referendum, but the
state's 2011 casino law required favorable votes in both communities
before Suffolk Downs can apply for a license from the Massachusetts
In Palmer Tuesday,
Mohegan Sun's proposed $1 billion casino was defeated by a margin of
less than 100 votes out of about 5,200 cast in the small western
Massachusetts town, unofficial returns showed.
"Voters today struck a
decisive blow to the casino culture, a clear signal that the
Commonwealth believes there are better economic options than casinos and
slot barns," said John Ribeiro, head of a statewide
group that is seeking to repeal the law which allows for up to three
regional resort casinos and one slots parlor.
Both Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs held out faint hopes that their respective proposals could still be salvaged.
Mitchell Etess, chief
executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said the company would
ask for a recount, citing what he said were technical problems with a
voting machine in one of the town's precincts.
"We have great respect
for the process and all of the voters in Palmer, and we believe this
request is consistent with ensuring that the process of counting ballots
was accurate," Etess said.
Chip Tuttle, chief
operating officer of Suffolk Downs, which straddles East Boston and
Revere, said the track would "reassess" its options after Tuesday's
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo
said he would ask Suffolk Downs to reshape its plan so that the entire
casino would be located within his city. It was not immediately clear if
such a change could pass muster with the
gaming commission, however.
Questions have been raised as to whether the 78-year-old track can remain viable without a casino component.
Opponents of the casino
proposals were elated but also surprised by their success Tuesday,
especially after being heavily outspent by the casino developers in the
run-up to the referendums.
"I came into the day
today bracing myself and talking myself into being content with a modest
loss," said Celeste Myers, co-chairwoman of the group No Eastie Casino.
"I had no reason to expect that we would realize
a win, much less a win of this nature. I'm just completely blown away."
Myers said she would
ask Boston Mayor-elect Martin Walsh to intervene if Suffolk Downs
attempted to circumvent the East Boston vote by relocating the proposed
casino to Revere.
Palmer resident Bill
Hayden said he and other opponents were worried a casino would spoil the
town's rural character by increasing traffic and crime.
"It was going to change our town forever," he said.
Supporters of the
Mohegan Sun proposal argued it would be a catalyst for an economic
revival in a town where manufacturing jobs have vanished in recent
If the vote in Palmer
stands, it would leave MGM Resorts International as the only company
still in the hunt for the sole western Massachusetts resort casino
license allowed under the law.
Voters in Springfield
in July approved MGM's proposal for a casino in the city's downtown,
though the gaming commission has yet to complete a background check on
In the eastern region,
Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn received overwhelming support from
Everett voters in June for his proposed resort casino along the Mystic
River. Wynn is also awaiting results of the
commission's background check.
Foxwoods, which like
Mohegan Sun operates a casino in Connecticut, also hopes to vie for the
eastern license if voters in Milford approve a referendum scheduled for