Local

East Boston Casino Vote Testing Friendships

By Christina Hager, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – He says “yes!” She says “no!” Pat Benti and Gail Miller are tight neighbors with a fence between them that’s decorated with signs. First Miller put up a “CasiNO” sign. Then Benti put up his. “Vote YES for Suffolk Downs.” She moved hers closer to cover his. He did the same in return. “I’m stopping short of punching his lights out,” says Miller.

Benti explains how Tuesday’s casino vote has tested their friendship of 30 years. “She called me a few weeks ago. She says, ‘Benti, I just unfriended you on Facebook.'”

Gail Miller and Pat Benti of East Boston. (WBZ-TV photo)

Gail Miller and Pat Benti of East Boston. (WBZ-TV photo)

Their rivalry is symbolic of what the community has experienced as both East Boston and Revere ponder separate votes Tuesday on the question of whether to turn the old Suffolk Downs race track into a high end casino.

“Suffolk Downs is our Fenway Park. It’s 80 years old. It’s part of our history,” says Benti. Other supporters gathered on Bennington Street Monday with signs, while anti-casino activists worked the phones. “The nature of it just isn’t appropriate for East Boston,” says Celeste Myers, co-chair of a group called No Eastie Casino.

If voters do not approve the Suffolk Downs plan, East Boston will lose its chance to compete for a resort casino license. Everett and possibly Milford are also in the running. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission will award the licenses next year.

Either way, Benti and Miller promise to kiss and make-up after the vote.

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