11/06/2013 1:12PM

Suffolk casino referenda result in split decision


Voters in the two Massachusetts districts where Suffolk Downs is located split in a vote Tuesday over whether to allow a casino at the track, introducing fresh questions for a project that lost critical momentum when the track’s partner pulled out 2 1/2 weeks ago.

Voters in East Boston, where 100 acres of the track are located, rejected the measure by a vote of 56 percent to 44 percent. Voters in Revere, where 50 acres of the track are located, supported the measure by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent.

Shortly after the votes were counted, Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo told reporters that he would ask Suffolk to pursue the casino project for the portion of the property in his town.

“If there is a way to reshape the project so it fits entirely in Revere, we’re going to pursue it,” Rizzo said.

The concept of pursuing the project adjacent to a locality that rejected it would pose enormous political problems for Suffolk, which lost its casino partner, Caesars, after the state’s gambling commission raised questions about Caesars’ suitability for a license less than three weeks prior to the referenda.

Chip Tuttle, Suffolk’s chief operating officer, did not immediately respond to a phone message.

Suffolk has until Dec. 31 to submit an alternate plan to the state’s gambling commission. The track had earlier reached agreements with both East Boston and Revere to send tens of millions of dollars each year to the localities from a casino at the track if it was approved.

Even if both localities had voted to support the Suffolk casino, the track’s bid to receive a license for the sole casino allowed under law in the Boston area was not a sure thing. Two other bidders are competing for the license, and their projects face local votes later this month. The state gambling commission will ultimately decide which project gets the license.

Under the state’s gambling law, horsemen will receive subsidies from state casinos, regardless of which companies are awarded the licenses. However, Suffolk has lost money every year since it was bought by a partnership led by Richard Fields in 2008, Tuttle has said, introducing questions about the viability of the track without a casino license.