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Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Another Vote Set for Boston-Area Casino at Suffolk Downs - WSJ.com
BOSTON—Massachusetts gambling regulators set the table Tuesday for another public vote on whether the Suffolk Downs thoroughbred track near Boston's Logan Airport can proceed with efforts to land a $1 billion resort-casino.
A new vote in Revere, Mass., possibly in February, would give Suffolk Downs and new partner Mohegan Sun a lifeline to continue seeking a coveted Boston-area license under a 2011 state casino law. Revere voters already backed the plan on Nov. 5, but the racetrack straddles the line between Revere and East Boston, and voters in the latter community said no the same day.
Because Suffolk and Mohegan have reshuffled their plans and now aim to squeeze a casino onto just the Revere side, the five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to allow a fresh Revere-only vote, provided the developers and city agree to that plan. They indicated they did.
"It seems to me that this is fair for everybody," said James McHugh, the commissioner who proposed the new vote. "It ultimately lets the voters go to the polls and do what the statute envisions."
Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said the group looks forward to working with Revere on the path outlined by the commission. The casino plan calls for Mohegan leasing the Revere land from Suffolk while building and owning the casino there.
"We've got strong support in Revere," he saidafter a packed commission meeting.
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo, a casino backer, said his city would hold another vote if needed. "We've got strong support in Revere," said Chip Tuttle, Suffolk's chief operating, after a packed commission meeting.
Celeste Myers, co-leader of the group "No Eastie Casino," which successfully campaigned for the "no" vote in East Boston, vowed to fight on, possibly in court.
She called the commission's move to allow another vote "completely outrageous" and said it was bending rules to benefit developers. Opponents believe the casino would boost traffic and crime while hurting property values, among other possible ill-effects.
The yearslong quest to add a casino to Suffolk—a 78-year-old track principally owned by Coastal Development LLC Chief Executive Richard Fields —is far from over. Even with another positive Revere vote, that plan may need to beat out a competing proposal fromWynn Resorts Ltd. WYNN +1.47% in nearby Everett, Mass., provided Wynn clears a background check. The gaming commission is expected to pick a winning project this spring.
The companies are competing under the two-year-old law that opened the door for three resort-style casinos in three different regions, plus one slots-only parlor. The law requires developers to strike deals with host towns, often by promising millions of dollars in payments and thousands of jobs, while securing positive community votes. The process has proved tricky, with casino plans flopping in several communities.
There are three proposals vying for the slots license, which could be decided by January. A decision on a western Massachusetts resort casino could also come next spring— MGM Resorts International's MGM +0.63% planned Springfield casino is the last surviving plan there—while the process for southeastern Massachusetts is moving more slowly.
Meantime, the future of racing at New England's last thoroughbred track hangs in the balance. Mr. Tuttle confirmed Tuesday the money-losing track still needs a nearby casino to survive, leaving open the possibility it could shut down.