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Friday, August 5, 2011

Pols bet on casino plan at Suffolk

The idea of a casino at Suffolk Downs has some political support. (Item File Photo)

By Thor Jourgensen

REVERE - State Rep. Joyce Spiliotis thinks building a casino at Suffolk Downs is a good idea if the Legislature can approve casino gambling in September, but a real estate developer has different ideas and wants Massachusetts voters to weigh in on them.

Like Spiliotis, Revere Mayor Thomas Ambrosino wants a casino at Suffolk Downs if the Legislature acts on gambling.

"We want full-blown expanded gambling. If that could include one competitively bid slot parlor, then let's get it done," Ambrosino said on Thursday.

Gov. Deval Patrick, in broader terms, supports a similar arrangement.

Patrick, according to his spokesman Alex Loftus, supports siting up to three resort casinos in the state and he is willing to support a competitively bid slot parlor.

In a statement released by Loftus quoting remarks Patrick made to radio show host Jim Braude on July 28, the governor said: " ... if it helps get a deal, I will accept one slot parlor that is competitively bid anywhere in the commonwealth."

Spiliotis backs a Suffolk Downs "race casino" combining live horse wagering and casino gambling, but any legislative debate on the topic must include, she said, proposals for minimizing traffic around Revere and Logan International Airport generated by an expanded Suffolk Downs.

"I've heard we are going to do some sort of bill in September," the Peabody Democrat said, adding, "The issue is, can everybody get together?"

Past legislative debates about legalizing gambling in Massachusetts have fallen short, with recent efforts doomed by disagreements between Patrick and legislators about combining casinos with slot parlors or separating the two venues.

Self-described real estate syndicator David Nunes on Thursday said he will wait and see what action legislators take on casinos this fall before he makes a bid to ask Massachusetts voters to weigh in on bringing gambling to the state.

If the Legislature does not act by Nov. 1 on the issue, Nunes said, he will set in motion an effort to collect 68,917 signatures required to place a referendum question on the November 2012 state election ballot.

"I'll spend the dollars on a campaign for this knowing full well that Connecticut neighbors are spending money against me," he said.

Nunes, who said he has assembled real estate deals in Pennsylvania and Washington, DC, wants to see casinos sited in western, central and southeastern Massachusetts.

Nunes, in an electronic mail statement, defined his referendum question as "a petition for a law permitting casino gambling in three locations," including land owned by a federally-recognized Native American tribe; a location near Milford bordering I-495; and another location in Western Massachusetts.

Nunes said he has experience advocating for casino gambling, including a 2004 effort based in Rhode Island. He wants casinos to run 24 hours a day and to be able to serve alcohol around the clock, but his casino plans proposes sending tax payments by casino companies back to Massachusetts communities for tax relief.

"I propose all money that comes into the state goes back to homeowners," he said on Thursday.