BOSTON (AP) — Casino supporters in the state were dealt twin setbacks on Tuesday as voters in East Boston rejected a proposal by the Suffolk Downs race track and voters in Palmer narrowly defeating a bid by Mohegan Sun to build a resort casino in the western Massachusetts town.
The results promise to dramatically alter the casino landscape in the state, where a 2011 gambling law allows for up to three regional resort casinos.
Voters in Revere approved the Suffolk Downs casino in a separate referendum Tuesday, but favorable votes were needed in both East Boston and Revere before the track could formally apply to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for a license.
“On behalf of the hundreds of volunteers, supporters and employees of Suffolk Downs, we want to thank the people of Revere for their overwhelming vote of confidence in our project. We believe that the people of Revere voted for jobs and a boost to their economy,” said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs.
“We thank the people of East Boston for allowing us to state our case for thousands of jobs for local residents and we appreciate the support we received,” he said.
Tuttle added that Suffolk Downs, which straddles East Boston and Revere, would now “reassess” its plans. Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo said he had preliminary conversations about relocating the casino proposal so it would fit entirely within his city.
Unofficial returns from 100 percent of the precincts in East Boston showed casino opponents with 56 percent of the vote.
In Palmer, the town clerk’s office said returns showed the casino proposal had been defeated by fewer than 100 votes out of about 5,200 cast Tuesday.
Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said the company was disappointed with the outcome of the vote as it currently stood, but would seek a recount.
“Because of technical problems with the voting machine in Precinct 2 that are very troubling, we will be asking the Town of Palmer for a hand recount of the ballots in today’s election,” Etess said in a statement.
“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,” he said.
Casino opponents like Bill Hayden, who has lived in Palmer since 1990, said the Mohegan Sun development would shatter the town’s rural character. He was ecstatic to learn that the project had been defeated.
“We had a very small budget to fight this with,” Hayden said. “I think a lot of people in Palmer were planning to vote no but they were keeping quiet about it. They didn’t want to be harassed by the casino people.”
Supporters of the Mohegan Sun proposal in Palmer had argued that the $1 billion project, which also included a retail complex and a water park, would be a catalyst for an economic revival in a town that has seen its traditional jobs base vanish in recent decades.
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 state gambling commission, which hopes to award the regional licenses next year, has yet to complete a background check on the company.
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 Massachusetts license if voters in Milford approve a referendum scheduled for Nov. 19.
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