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Globe editorial calls for city-wide referendum on casino

A Boston Globe editorial on Sunday endorsed a city-wide referendum on an East Boston casino. Under the casino bill signed into law in November, the City Council has the power to approve such a referendum, or allow a vote to occur in the ward the casino would be located. Suffolk Downs, the East Boston race track, is putting together a proposal with Caesars.

“The vote itself can only be called when there’s a specific proposal to put before voters, but there seems to be no reason why the council couldn’t move immediately to opt out of the ward restriction, making it clear from the outset that when a Suffolk Downs proposal materializes, it will have to go before all the voters,” the editorial said.

Mayor Thomas Menino has said repeatedly he prefers a referendum confined to East Boston. Which side a majority of the 13-member City Council comes down is unclear. The Reporter surveyed the council on the issue several weeks ago, just after Gov. Deval Patrick signed the casino bill.

The positions of the four at-large councillors were unknown (Stephen Murphy, Ayanna Pressley, John Connolly, and Felix Arroyo), since they said they were either reviewing the legislation or didn’t return a request for comment. Among the district councillors, Tito Jackson (District 7) said he wanted to look at the legislation, and Bill Linehan (District 2) said, “You’re not going to get me to comment on casinos.”

East Boston’s city councillor, Sal LaMattina (District 1), is in favor of a referendum only in East Boston, arguing it’s the neighborhood that will be most affected. Mark Ciommo (District 9) agrees, as does Rob Consalvo (District 5).

On the side of a city-wide referendum: Frank Baker (District 3), Charles Yancey (District 4), and Matt O’Malley (District 6). Michael Ross (District 8) has said he is leaning toward such a referendum.

Editor's note: The Reporter also addressed this issue in an editorial on Nov. 22.