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Suffolk Downs formally submits application for casino license

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  January 15, 2013 12:53 PM

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Suffolk Downs casino.jpg

(Elkus Manfredi Architects)

An architectural rendering of the proposed Suffolk Downs resort casino.

The operators of the Suffolk Downs racetrack Monday submitted the first portion of their application for state approval to develop a resort casino in partnership with Caesars Entertainment.

The proposed $1 billion development would bring a new hotel, restaurants, entertainment venues, a spa and, of course, casino gambling to the aging horseracing track that straddles the line between East Boston and Revere. Track officials said last year that the casino would have a 200,000-square-foot gambling space with 4,000 to 5,000 slot machines and 200 table games.

The gaming license filing submitted to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission highlighted the local ties of many top staff members in both organizations and its collaborations with local architects, engineers, designers, and contractors in developing its plans.

“This is an economic development initiative that will set the standard for gaming development in Massachusetts and will create thousands of new jobs with real career paths and room for advancement,” said Richard Fields, a principal owner of Suffolk Downs, in a statement released by the 78-year-old racetrack.

“And it is built on a foundation of collaboration and partnership — with local residents and community groups; with local businesses; and with Boston's entertainment, tourism and convention facilities."

The deadline for applications was set for 5 p.m. Tuesday. Just before 5 p.m. Monday, the gaming commission confirmed receipt of the Suffolk Downs application in a Twitter post, noting that seven applicants had so far submitted proposals for the three licenses available for development of either a slot parlor, a resort casino in Greater Boston, or a resort casino in Western Massachusetts.

Los Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn is also vying for the Greater Boston license, with plans to build a high-rise resort hotel and casino on the site of a former Monsanto Chemical plant in Everett that would also include a spa, restaurants, and upscale shops.

Wynn had previously worked with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft on a proposal for a Wynn Resorts casino to be built across Route 1 from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, but opposition among local residents and elected officials led Wynn to abandon that plan.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino has scoffed at Wynn’s plans, saying that access to the Everett site would need to pass through Boston, and that no one from Wynn’s team has consulted him about the proposal. Menino supports the Suffolk Downs proposal, as do a number of other local elected officials.

Community opinion, though, is divided, with many East Boston and Revere residents concerned that a new casino could bring traffic, increased crime, and an epidemic of gambling problems to their communities. A group calling itself No Eastie Casino sprang up last year to lead the opposition and has united local activists in an effort to spread information about the possible damage a casino can bring.

Celeste Myers, an anti-casino activist from East Boston, said she is concerned that the competition from Wynn will only speed up the timetable for Suffolk Downs’ negotiations with Menino and the city’s Host Community Advisory Committee.

She fears this will mean even less time for the community to get answers to its questions about casino impacts, but said No Eastie Casino will ramp its efforts with additional public information sessions and enter “full campaign mode” in preparation for a public vote on the plan negotiated by the city.

“We’re thinking that this is really a very pivotal time for us,” Myers said by phone on Tuesday. “Our goal with No Eastie Casino is to be here every step of the way to provide information and ensure as much transparency as possible.”

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