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Casino supporters to rally Sunday in Revere, Mass.

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published February 21. 2014 4:00AM
Mohegan Sun hopes to create voter support for Tuesday referendum

Mohegan Sun's bid to win Revere, Mass., voters' support for a $1.3 billion casino project is nearing its end, with municipal officials expected to attend a "grand finale rally" Sunday at a VFW hall in the city.

Two days later, a referendum will determine whether the casino project advances to the final stage of an approval process the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has been conducting for more than a year.

For some, Tuesday's vote may have a "been there, done that" feel to it.

Less than four months ago, on Nov. 5, Revere voters soundly endorsed a previous plan to develop a casino at Suffolk Downs, the thoroughbred track that straddles Revere's border with the Boston neighborhood of East Boston. The plan failed, however, when East Boston voters rejected it.

"It's great knowing there was such support in November," Mitchell Etess, the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority's chief executive officer, said Thursday. "But that hasn't caused us to take anything for granted. We're not overconfident."

Mohegan Sun, which narrowly lost a Nov. 5 casino referendum in Palmer, Mass., subsequently partnered with Suffolk Downs on the current Revere-only project that would be built on land the racetrack owns.

Etess said Mohegan Sun's referendum campaign in Revere has been similar to the one it waged in Palmer.

"I don't think we ran a bad campaign in Palmer; it just wasn't resonant," he said. "They're very different communities. Revere has a long history of gaming, with Suffolk Downs. We've been getting our message out about our project's economic benefits, the jobs, the transformative nature of it."

Mohegan Sun has backed Friends of Mohegan Sun, the group hosting Sunday's rally, with cash infusions totaling $400,000, campaign finance reports show.

Revere Mayor Daniel Rizzo has been a staunch backer of the casino plan.

"No other proposal in the history of our city has ever offered the benefits to individuals, families, and local businesses like this does," Rizzo said in a statement. "I'm excited about Tuesday's referendum vote because of what it means for the future of Revere. ... We have a chance to secure our city's economic prosperity and well-being for generations to come by voting yes."

If Mohegan Sun wins the vote, the gaming commission will consider its application for the sole Greater Boston license also being sought by Wynn Resorts, which has proposed a $1.6 billion project for the city of Everett.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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