REVERE — Four days before they go to the polls to vote for or reject a proposed Suffolk Downs casino, local residents drew sharp contrasts between a casino’s job-creating power and what critics called the potential for crime to follow gambling into the city.
Voters like Michael Benevento and Cheryl Frye think next Tuesday’s local vote to approve or reject Suffolk and Mohegan Sun’s proposed casino partnership will be much closer than the nearly 60 percent pro-casino vote last November.
“It’s just my feeling about how people are talking,” said Benevento.
The subject is hard to avoid with a banner strung across Broadway in front of City Hall reading: “Please vote on election day.”
Benevento thinks introducing gambling at Suffolk Downs will spur development in the city, but gambling opponent Frye said she is worried about the “crime factor” she thinks is associated with casino gambling.
“I’ve been against it from the start,” Frye said.
The state Gaming Commission’s current schedule calls for the five-member commission to license up to three resort casinos in Massachusetts by May 30. Revere and Everett are competing sites for an Eastern Massachusetts casino.
Revere voters supported a Suffolk casino in last November’s vote, but East Boston residents rejected the gambling proposal, setting the stage for Suffolk and Mohegan executives to announce plans to build a $1.3 billion gambling complex only in Revere.
Steven Moscato thinks the ideal Massachusetts casino site is a semi-rural location off a major highway, but he thinks Revere voters will approve a Suffolk casino site.
“I’d say it’s 50-50 how it will help the city: There are jobs — part-time ones at least — and the downside is crime and traffic,” Moscato said.
Casino supporter Peggy Ferreira said a “no” vote against a Revere casino means gambling dollars spent by local and area residents will continue to flow to casinos in other states. She remembers the golden age of local race wagering when Wonderland Greyhound Park and Suffolk Downs drew crowds to the two tracks.
“We’ve had the dogs and the horses — what’s the problem?” she said.
The problem, in Roman Irby’s view, is that a casino could “bring a lot of trouble to the city,” including drug dealing, said Irby.
Benevento said casino opponents are contacting voters on the eve of the Feb. 25 vote. Casino proponent organizations, including Revere Says Yes and Friends of Mohegan Sun, are holding rallies this weekend, according to a Suffolk-Mohegan press statement.
Saber Abougalala said he does not gamble in line with his Islamic faith, but the Revere businessman said money generated by casino gambling will benefit local businesses and create jobs. In Andrew James’ view, a local vote against a Revere casino means money made from gambling will most likely go to Everett where a competing casino proposal is under commission review.
Benevento and resident Michelle Ciano said the upcoming casino vote has triggered strong feelings among people they know.
“I think there’s a lot of mixed emotions,” she said.