Only minutes had gone by after the decision by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to award a casino license to Wynn Resorts before Everett’s Michael McLaughlin and Dan Skeritt kicked it into high gear to get the word out about the ‘Vote No on Question 3’ campaign – a campaign calling for keeping the casino projects in Massachusetts.
Since that time, they’ve travelled throughout Everett, Revere, Chelsea, Charlestown and virtually all of Middlesex County to explain the intricacies of the ballot question on casinos (Question 3) so there is no confusion and to engage in friendly debates with those who intend to vote for the casino repeal.
“On the same day of the decision, literally an hour afterward, everything sort of pivoted to the question and what it was all about,” said McLaughlin during a sit down interview this week. “It was great we got the license, but we immediately realized that we were only halfway there and we needed to do a lot of work. If the ‘Yes’ vote were to prevail, then all the work we’ve done since November 2012 will dissolve. There is a lot at stake.”
Skeritt said it’s an issue that goes beyond just Everett, but rather to all of Massachusetts – even to those employees of Suffolk Downs who lost their jobs because the casino license went to Everett.
“It’s a Massachusetts thing, not just the host and surrounding communities, but all of Massachusetts,” Skeritt said. “We understand there is disappointment, but we understand there is real benefit to the Suffolk Downs workers in this question. Mr. Wynn has offered preference to those workers for the jobs. We invite them to come in and stand beside us because it’s about all of Massachusetts on this question. It’s no longer about Revere versus Everett.”
Added McLaughlin, “We started building our pyramid with Everett – shoring up our base – and then moved out. We then went out to surround communities like Malden, Medford, Revere and Chelsea. We talked to elected officials there and everyone was great. Then we went up to the Readings and Woburns. We have about 35 days until Election Day and we need to continue to work on quickly building our pyramid.”
Often starting at 8 a.m. and not finishing the workday until 11 p.m., McLaughlin and Skeritt have placed 425 lawn signs, 40 large signs and have knocked on 500 doors since the license was awarded.
And the pivot from all the controversy over the license has morphed primarily into a campaign to dispel confusion around the question – which by it’s nature is confusing because if one wants to keep casinos, they must vote ‘no.’ Likewise, there are four questions on a very long ballot and many people may be inclined not to stay on the ballot until the end.
“We really believe we have the support of a majority of people, but we feel it’s our duty to make sure people are informed and understand and are willing to stay on the ballot to the end,” said McLaughlin. “It’s very important to stay on the ballot. A lot of people are going to vote for governor and then walk out the door without ever seeing Question 3. There is a huge opportunity – once in a lifetime – to change Massachusetts on that ballot. If people walk out before voting for Question 3 or miss it, then that’s a huge opportunity they’ve missed.”
Skeritt added that there are no longer any mysteries about where the casinos will be located, so voters don’t need to be wary.
“There are a lot of people who support casinos, but maybe no in their own backyard,” he said. “We know where the three are going, and they cannot open another one for 15 years. Unless you live in Everett, Springfield, Taunton or Plainville, you won’t have a casino (or slot parlor) in your backyard. That has all been decided.”
There is also the concern about confusion, whereby some might want to keep the casino industry, but don’t understand that voting ‘Yes’ is going against the casino.
Finally, McLaughlin said they are disappointed in the reaction of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to the Wynn license and look forward to talking with Charlestown residents about the real plan for traffic.
“Mayor Walsh has been really disappointing in this,” McLaughlin said. “He chose to put all his apples in one basket and didn’t want to work with Wynn. I felt he didn’t acknowledge some important facts. He said he didn’t have the information in a lot of cases, but the fact is he didn’t want to have the information. He had picked his side and I respect him for choosing a side, but in doing so I think he sold out the people of Charlestown.”
To that end, both men said they’re ready to meet with Charlestown residents head on to discuss the ‘No’ campaign and their concerns.
“The people in Charlestown are my friends,” said McLaughlin. “I want to know why they’re upset. I want to show them the plan and educate them. We’re all for having a discussion and listening to them and them listening to us.”
Added Skeritt, “Mr. Wynn is not going to put $2 billion on the ground and not be able to get people to and from the facility. We really want to present the traffic plan to Charlestown residents so they can look the plan and be educated before they make their decision.”
While the ‘Yes on 3’ repeal effort has had a tremendous head start in working the grass roots – as evidenced by their immediate response to the licensing decision in Charlestown.
However, McLaughlin and Skeritt said they are catching up rapidly and have the help of a statewide network with television commercial exposure.
Already, last weekend, the ‘No on 3’ campaign launched a series of ads based upon the benefits of the casino project in Springfield. Soon, an Everett-based commercial will also debut.
“The commercials are helpful because they reach millions and, though we’re working hard, we’re not going to be door knocking 2.5 million people,” said McLaughlin. “The commercial coming out will feature an Everett resident who is a retired teacher and will talk about the benefits of our project not just for Everett, but also for all of the Commonwealth.”
In the end, McLaughlin and Skeritt said they plan to out work the ‘Yes’ campaign, and they won’t be doing it with money that was parachuted in from Las Vegas – as is often alleged. They’ll be doing it with legwork, McLaughlin said.
“I can’t speak to the money being spent, but no one will out work us,” said McLaughlin.