By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Councillor George Rotondo called for an emergency meeting of the Legislative Affairs Sub-Committee on Monday to discuss legal action in the city involving a proposed slot machine parlor and a hotel.
Rotondo along with Councillor Anthony Zambuto were the only two councilors to attend the meeting.
“It saddens me quite a bit that the other councillors are not here,” Zambuto said.
The meeting proceeded with Gene McCain, one of the principals in the hotel/slot machine parlor proposal which would be placed in the area of Lee’s Trailer Park on Revere Beach Parkway. At Rotondo’s urging, “Just so people know you’re not fly-by-night,” McCain gave background on himself and projects he has done in Hawaii, Japan and Thailand. He also has an MBA from the University of Maine and a bachelor’s degree from the University California Berkley.
McCain then explain the legal matters the city and he were involved with regarding McCain collecting signatures for a ballot question. McCain is trying to get a special election in Revere for a gaming license and already has Question 1 on the state ballot on Nov. 8.
McCain said in discussions last fall with then Mayor Dan Rizzo, who attended the special meeting Monday, was receptive to plans about a hotel but not the slots proposal. Rizzo himself said that he was tied up working with Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun on bringing a casino to Revere.
McCain said when he first met Mayor Brian Arrigo “he seemed supportive and we discussed the economic aspects.” He added that he met a few councillors, specifically Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna, Ward 5 Councillor John Powers and Councilor-at-large Robert Haas.
“Now I have not been able to have a meeting for a number of months with Mayor Arrigo,” McCain said.
McCain’s people had gathered over 8,000 signatures and in the end 4,808 signatures were certified. McCain said within a day of visiting City Hall there was litigation against him. The city then had a cease and desist order filed against him. A hearing was then set for Suffolk Superior Court last week where the judge dismissed the case by the city.
“The city tried to stop you from getting signatures?” Rotondo asked.
“That is correct and we were quite surprised,” McCain said.
“It sounds to me like a civil rights violation,” Rotondo said. “We apologize. I don’t support gaming but I support petitioners. Petitioning is a fundamental right.”
McCain and his people are seeking two elections, a special election at the end of October for just Revere voters and a statewide referendum vote on Nov. 8 to try and obtain a one of the five category 2 gaming license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which has to be located within 1,500 feet of a horse racing track.
According to court documents, McCain said, a special election at the end of October would cost $60,000 to $70,000. The cost for the statewide question would not fall on Revere residents.
“We’re seeking host community status,” McCain said, adding that what he is trying to do does not warrant “what we’re doing. We have tremendous backing and feel we will do well at the state level. This feels like an attempt to take away an opportunity before it happens.”
Those at the meeting also heard from Bangor, Maine City Councilor David Nealley, who was involved in getting a Bangor a casino. He touted the positive effects of revenue for the city, a new waterfront park with concerts from artists like Jimmy Buffet.
“We knew we needed revenue. The community got behind it and embraced it,” Nealley said. “It has become sort of a renaissance for the city. We just built a new civic center from the revenue brought in.”
He added that the casino is now its number one taxpayer where in the past it was General Electric.
Former Mayor Dan Rizzo said he knew McCain as a top-quality, first class developer and the city could be well served. He added that he could see spending city funds fighting petitioners. Although, said Rizzo, he was not for slot machines when he was mayor and he is not for them now.
“Yes the trailer park drains city resources,” Rizzo said. “With Wynn a few miles away what are the odds of slots drawing people over here? I’ll put my faith in the voters.”