By Seth Daniel
A cadre of Revere officials and business people staged their second meeting on Monday to discuss the possibility of expanding gaming coming to the city.
A few months ago, city councillors proposed to form a task force to discuss and be prepared for casinos or any type of expanded gaming that has been so frequently discussed at Suffolk Downs/Wonderland. The issue is pending state approval – and that’s a big if – but the talk on the street has been that a behind-the-scenes agreement has already been hammered out on Beacon Hill, and a short public process will come this fall and will bring gaming to the area.
More than ever, Committee Chair John Powers said leaders want to be prepared and ahead of any decisions.
“The hope is that the pains suffered by the people of Revere and the people of East Boston – that we can hopefully turn the pains to gains,” said Councillor Arthur Guinasso.
However, some councillors and others on the committee said that the group could talk about the issue until they’re blue in the face, but nothing would happen without someone from the state being present.
“We can sit up here and make loquacious dissertations all day and we’re not getting anywhere,” said Jim Kimmerle, probably the one ward councillor whose area would be most affected by any gaming proposal at Suffolk. “I wish we had a representative here from the state to let us know what’s going on. I’d like to know what’s going on with Suffolk Downs and Wonderland Park, too. You hear this and you hear that.”
School Committeeman Dan Maguire said he felt the committee needed to make itself aware to the state and, more importantly, to Boston.
“There’s decisions in the mayor’s office in Boston going on right now,” he said. “Do they even know what’s going on here? I don’t want Revere to get left out. Revere can get left out really quickly despite the amount of land we have down there.”
Meanwhile, one of the greatest concerns has been traffic. Any proposal would probably swamp the Beachmont and Parkway areas with traffic, as was the case in the old days when Wonderland was a major draw.
“I think we have a way to go to persuade a significant number of people in our city that this is the way to go,” said School Committee member Carol Tye. “I’m kind of a reluctant supporter because I remember the way it was [with Wonderland].”
Said School Committee member Donna Wood Pruitt, a Beachmont resident, “I feel like Beachmont is going to be its own little island. Beachmont only has a few ways in and out and we’re not going through Winthrop and East Boston just to get out.”
Police Chief Terence Reardon said that he and the Traffic Division have begun doing initial traffic studies to find out how many cars currently use the roadways around the tracks – and at what times.
He said they could use some more information from Suffolk.
“Particularly, we would like to know what [Suffolk is] talking about for hotels, parking spots and capacity crowds,” said the chief. “I can’t imagine they haven’t run preliminary studies. It would be nice to be privy to that.”
The city’s long-time planning consultant, Paul Rupp, said that the casino might be a way to speed up important roadway changes in Revere – changes that are years away right now.
“I think this casino proposal at Suffolk Downs becomes a catalyst for an overall traffic plan to happen in Revere sooner rather than later,” he said.
Meanwhile, some small business owners are skeptical about a casino and how it would affect their businesses. Most importantly, they said, they don’t want Revere to catch the brunt of all the drawbacks.
“Basically, we just don’t want to end up being a parking lot here,” said Vincent Giachetti of the Esquire Club. “We fear we’re going to get all the insurance increases, car accidents, traffic and parking. Meanwhile, Boston will get all the jobs and positive benefits.”