In the Cards

Councilors wrangle over citywide or ward vote for Suffolk Downs

For more than three hours this afternoon, supporters and opponents of a Suffolk Downs casino wrangled before the Boston City Council over the wisdom of allowing a casino at the track, and whether a mandatory vote on the project should be held citywide or only within East Boston.

“East Boston is an island,” said Council President Stephen J. Murphy, advocating for a ward-only vote, during a public hearing today. “You get there by tunnel or bridge.” It would be “ludicrous,” he said, for residents of faraway neighborhoods to claim they would be affected by a casino in East Boston.

On the other side of the issue, Councilor Matt O’Malley said that while East Boston likely would be the neighborhood most affected by a Suffolk Downs casino, “this is something that would affect the [entire] city and every citizen should have the opportunity to weigh in.”

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Coming four days before the city preliminarily election, the hearing drew comments from a number of mayoral candidates.

Suffolk Downs has requested the referendum on the project be set for Nov. 5, the same day as the city final election.

The council will decide on Wednesday if it will grant the Nov. 5 date, and whether the casino vote will be citywide or stay within East Boston, said Murphy.

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