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Keller @ Large: Suffolk Downs Casino Vote Not A No-Brainer

By Jon Keller, WBZ Political Analyst
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A rendering of the originally proposed Suffolk Downs Casino. (Courtesy: Elkus Manfredi Architects)

A rendering of the originally proposed Suffolk Downs Casino. (Courtesy: Elkus Manfredi Architects)

420x316-grad-keller2 Jon Keller
Veteran Boston political commentator Jon Keller is heard every weekday...
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BOSTON (CBS) —- Finally, there are some hard numbers are on the table for the proposed casino at Suffolk Downs, and they certainly are tantalizing:

* More than $33 million upfront for East Boston, and $20 million more each year to reimburse the community for services;

* $45 million in transportation and infrastructure improvements;

* At least $32 million a year for the city overall, much more if the casino’s profits are higher than expected;

* And 2,500 construction jobs along with 4,000 permanent jobs.

Listen to Jon’s commentary

Plus, there’s enough left over to throw Revere a cool $15 million a year.

That is about ten percent of that city’s annual budget, and the rest of the numbers promise a badly-needed cash boost for some blue-collar neighborhoods and workers, not to mention a lifeline for the current Suffolk Downs workers, who’ve been hanging on by a thread.

And that is no small thing.

It’s all well and good to talk about turning Suffolk Downs into an innovation district full of high-tech start-ups and energy-related jobs, but there are no guarantees of any of that happening. The casino deal is a real commitment from people with the resources to make good.

And don’t forget why we as a state, through our elected representatives, dropped our longtime ban on casino gambling.

The economy is fine here for scientists, academics, and other professionals. But blue-collar workers and young people are struggling to find work, and this one is for them.

Nonetheless, the people of Boston – all of whom should be allowed to vote on the plan, not just East Bostonians – need to think hard about what happens if, as we’re seeing elsewhere, casino revenues falter.

Could it become a net loser, siphoning money from locals who can’t afford it, and spreading social dysfunction that we’ll get stuck with the tab for? Or could it cannibalize our tourist industry?

Whatever the short-term appeal of the casino money, that vote is not a no-brainer.

In fact, it’ll take every bit of careful thought Bostonians can muster.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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