Senator Anthony Petruccelli was at the Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association meeting Monday night to update the community on the state’s gaming bill. At the meeting, Petruccelli was met with perhaps the strongest opposition for a proposed casino at Suffolk Downs racetrack in his ongoing speaking tour on the subject that began over two years ago.
A group of residents, mainly newcomers to East Boston and the Jeffries Point area had posed many questions and voiced numerous concerns to Petruccelli.
Petruccelli, who was skeptical at the beginning of the casino debate nearly four years ago was never publicly for or against a casino in Eastie until he did his homework.
However, that did not stop some in the audience Monday night from using old quotes about his early concerns against him at the meeting.
“You said in the past that East Boston is already overly burdened by highways and an airport so why has your position changed and what makes this a good idea now?,” asked one resident.
Petruccelli argued that while other colleagues immediately thought a casino in Eastie was a good idea, he initially had reservations.
“But I will tell you that the moment I began to change my mind is when I bumped into a longtime friend who was recently laid off and had a mortgage to pay and a family to feed—that is when I realized that the economy was so bad that we needed to create local jobs and a gaming bill would do that,” said Petruccelli. “If a casino is put at Suffolk Downs it would create over 3,000 permanent jobs with good wages and benefits and that is why I support the gaming bill before the Senate today.”
Another resident asked how Petruccelli could support a resort-style casino and its potential impacts in Eastie without a comprehensive state gaming study to reference.
“I believe I have digested an appropriate level of information over the years on how urban casinos and resort style casinos have both negative and positive impacts on surrounding communities,” said Petruccelli. “And after weighing both I believe there’re ways we can make it work.”
While Petruccelli appreciated the debate and welcomed skepticism he reminded the audience that while he supports the state’s gaming bill he is not the final authority on the issue.
“This is the biggest land use decision since the expansion of Logan International Airport,” said Petruccelli. “This will be the first time East Boston residents will have a say on whether they want something in their backyard that will have an impact.”
The state’s gaming bill includes a ballot referendum by a “host community”. A host community shall mean only the ward in which the gaming establishment is to be located for the purpose of receiving a certified and binding vote on a ballot question at an election.
This Petruccelli said would put the future of a potential casino at Suffolk Downs in the hands of the people.
“In the end Suffolk Downs will make its pitch and its plans to the community and you will decide whether or not it’s a good fit,” Petruccelli said.