They Had an Election on Slots in Revere and Most Voters Said, Why Bother?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The gambling industry tacticians who wore the clothes of the Revere Jobs and Education Committee got their heads handed to them yesterday in a special municipal election.

This was a small-turnout event that wasn’t even close to being close. 
Of the 4,549 residents of the Beach City who voted, 2,970 were against the idea of having a slots parlor on the site of an old trailer park near Suffolk Downs, while 1,574 were for it, and 5 left the question blank. 

Even for an election in my hometown, the blanks were a quirky product.
There was only one question, one item on the ballot, having to do with a slots parlor.  Five individuals schlepped to the polls, signed in, got a ballot, did nothing with it when they went behind the curtain, slipped it into the box, and walked out the door.  Ohhhh-K.

Up till now, I always thought of blanking as something you did when there were multiple candidates and/or referendum questions on the ballot.  I blank guys I’m not enamored of, incumbents, as a way of signaling it’s time for them extend their career horizons to the private sector.  It’s an easy message to send when you’re at the polling place on other business.  One has to be zealously neutral to go and vote solely to show you don’t care one way or the other.
The putative Revere slots parlor was defeated by a margin of 65.29% to 34.6%, but the most interesting percentage emanating from the election had to do with turnout.  There are 27,781 registered voters in Revere.  The 4,549 voters who participated in the special slots election represent slightly over 16% of that total, meaning the election result can be framed as follows:  

Eighty-four out of 100 Revere voters don’t give a poop if an unidentified group of investors builds a major gambling venue in their city or not.   
Recall that the head of the Revere Jobs and Education Committee, Eugene McCain, who moved only recently from Thailand to Revere to serve as point man for more gambling by slots machines in Massachusetts, has declined, as recently as Monday in the Boston Globe, to release the names of those investors.

Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo described McCain’s offering as a “fly-by-night ‘proposal’ ” and denounced the Revere Jobs and Education Committee as a “shoddy, previously unheard-of enterprise.”  (The mayor actually put quote marks around proposal whenever he wrote about it.)
The hopes of McCain/Revere Jobs and Education Committee that a victory in the Revere special election would improve the odds that voters statewide would approve Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot – a question advanced by the related Horse Racing Jobs and Education Committee –were dashed to pieces yesterday.

A delighted Arrigo intends to keep a bright bulb burning over those shards. 
Arrigo told WGBH news last night: “What’s exciting is that we have now taken out of their arsenal the talking point that Revere wants this, because we don’t.  It’s clear that we don’t.  And I look forward to telling everyone from now until November 8 that the city of Revere does not want this.”

McCain/Revere Jobs and Education Committee/Unknown Investors spent a considerable sum, a sum not yet definitively known, on the effort to force the city, via an initiative petition, to hold a special election on its slots parlor proposal before the upcoming state election and on the accompanying promotional campaign. In one news story last week (or thereabouts), it was reported that they had expended around $400,000 in Revere.
In the gambling industry, which sees Massachusetts as an especially lucrative market -- and especially so for slots machines because Massachusetts has a larger-than-average elderly population and the elderly love their slots -- that is not really a lot to spend on development.  Steve Wynn spent upwards of $300 million chasing the eastern Massachusetts casino license with his Everett casino plan.  That would have all been wasted if the Mass. Gaming Commission, back in September of 2014, had selected the other bidder, Mohegan Sun at Suffolk Downs. 




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