Finance Proposal for Suffolk Downs Caesars By Ernani Jose DeAraujo, Esq.
An important piece of the casino discussion that hasn’t gotten much
attention, but will impact each of us, is how much money Suffolk
Downs Caesars will spend to convince East Boston residents to vote
for a casino in the upcoming referendum. Under existing law, Suffolk
Downs can spend as much as it wants on its campaign: political
advertising; campaign mail; professional phone bankers and door
Regardless of how one feels about a casino in our neighborhood—and
the recent independent Northeastern University survey shows a
diversity of views—we should be concerned that Suffolk Downs can
spend whatever it wants to get our approval for their casino.
When the referendum period opens soon, will we be blanketed by
hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of political advertising from
the casino? How much is the casino currently spending on focus
groups, polling, political consultants, etc. to craft a strategy to
get us to say “yes”?
The casino has every right to make its case and has the freedom to
spend whatever it wants to do so. But just because it’s legal, does
not make it right for our neighborhood.
Dumping hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars into our
neighborhood for what could be a challenging political battle will
only serve to obscure the significant issues that residents must
weigh before voting on a casino. Suffolk and its allies will trumpet
the positives of a casino in East Boston, as they should. But
residents must hear all sides before making a decision and not have
the voices of caution and even opposition drowned out by corporate
money. It’s no secret that the casino industry in particular is a
cesspool for public and private corruption. Suffolk can do a lot to
mitigate the risk of corruption.
Suffolk has aspired to be “first in class” in every aspect of their
casino venture—that is admirable. I hope that Suffolk can be “first
in class” when it comes to their political campaign by adopting some
common sense approaches to make the referendum a fair process for
1. Transparency & Disclosure: Suffolk should immediately commit to
real time disclosure of how much it spends on trying to influence
us. Let us know who they’ve hired in our neighborhood to champion
their cause and how much they’re paying them. Suffolk has a great
website and could easily put all of that information on it for
everyone to see. Campaign finance law sets the minimum standard for
disclosure, but the casino wants to be our neighbor and should go
beyond the minimum. Transparency and full disclosure should be the
2. Spending cap: Suffolk should agree to a voluntary cap on campaign
spending. A cap could be set at $500,000 for both the Revere and
East Boston referenda. That amount is about what a very competitive
local election would cost and will be more than enough for the
casino to get out its message. A reasonable cap will allow residents
to express themselves and deliberate concerning this complicated
issue without being overwhelmed by the pro-casino campaign.
The next several months will be an extraordinary time in our
neighborhood where East Boston residents will decide whether a
casino makes sense for East Boston. I hope we all do our homework
before we vote and keep a close eye on everything that’s
happening—East Boston is the place we call home and we’re
responsible for taking care of our neighborhood.