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Gambling Commission Calls For Another Vote

The Citizens of Revere Will Have to Vote Again on a Development at Suffolk Downs

Metro Editor

Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 02:12

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Elise Amendola / Associated Press

A new obstacle has been added to the growing number of roadblocks stalling the development at Suffolk Downs, a thoroughbred racetrack that straddles the city line of Revere and East Boston. On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission passed a new referendum to require another vote be taken on the building of a casino on the Suffolk Downs property in Revere, Mass. The prompt for a new vote comes after significant changes were made to the plan originally endorsed by Revere voters in the Nov. 5 election.

While the city of Revere supports the casino, their neighbors in East Boston altered Suffolk Downs’ original plans. On that same November day, the voters in East Boston struck down the idea of a casino in their city. A Revere-only plan was then put together to adapt to the restrictions set by voters.

After gambling was legalized in the state of Massachusetts in 2011, the track owners made a bid for a casino license—a bid which has still not yet been approved. Originally, the track collaborated with Caesars Entertainment Corporation in a $1 billion casino resort deal that would include two hotels, a casino, and a spa, amongst other amenities, across Suffolk Downs’ 163-acre property. Caesars withdrew its application in late October due to federal scrutiny over background checks conducted by a local gaming regulator. This sudden change came just three weeks before the voting commenced on Nov. 5.

When voters forbade the casino’s development in East Boston, Suffolk Downs struck a deal with Mohegan Sun to develop on the 53 acres of the racetrack’s property located in Revere. The new proposed plan includes a casino overlooking the track, complemented by shops, restaurants, and two hotels. Additionally, this new proposal calls for Suffolk Downs to be a landlord, not the casino owner. Mohegan Sun must build, own, and operate independently of the racetrack while leasing the land from Suffolk Downs. The racetrack would no longer be required to continue horse racing, yet, according to The Boston Globe, track officials have pledged to keep racing.

Due to the sudden and immense changes to the plan, State Gaming Commissioner James McHugh argued Tuesday that the commission, a five-person panel founded less than two years ago (in conjunction with Massachusetts’ legalization of gambling), should hear from the voters in Revere once more.

The panel should “treat the proposal for what it is—a different and new proposal,” said McHugh, according to The Boston Globe.

The gaming commission unanimously agreed with McHugh. A new vote will be set for February.

Developers of the new project have seven days to accept the opportunity for a new vote in Revere. Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle told The Globe that, after the meeting, he expects the developers to accept.

Despite the struggles permeating through the Suffolk Downs casino plan, developers push on in hopes of gaining access to what is considered the most profitable gambling license in the state.

The only remaining contender for the license is the $1.3 billion development plan by Wynn Resorts, which gained the overwhelming support of residents in its proposed location of Everett, Mass. Although Wynn has the backing of voters, the company has yet to be approved by the gaming commission’s “intensive suitability screening,” according to The Boston Herald.

Come May 2014, the gaming commission will make a final decision on which bid—Mohgean Sun in Suffolk Downs or Wynn Resorts in Everett—gets the one license available for the Greater Boston area.

 

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