02/25/2014 9:25PM

Suffolk Downs casino referendum passes


BOSTON, Mass. - Voters in Revere, Mass. turned out in force Feb. 25 to approve Mohegan Sun’s proposal to develop a $1.3 billion casino at Suffolk Downs, keeping hope alive that racing will continue at New England’s sole surviving Thoroughbred track for years to come.

Although official results had yet to be tabulated, the referendum in support of Suffolk Downs, which straddles the cities of Revere and East Boston, is estimated to have passed 63 percent to 37 percent. By state law, a casino can only be situated where voters decide to be the host community.

The ballot measure in Revere was required after a split decision in a Nov. 5 referenda when East Boston voters overwhelming rejected an earlier plan while voters in Revere approved it. Subsequently, Suffolk Downs partnered with Mohegan Sun, which had lost a separate referendum to build a casino in western Massachusetts, and the project was rapidly redesigned and moved entirely to the Revere side of the property.

At the ballot box in November, Revere voters approved the measure 61 percent to 39 percent. Tuesday’s slightly bigger margin of victory may send a message to the five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which has been tasked with the responsibility to award the sole casino license designated for the Greater Boston area.

Suffolk Downs/Mohegan Sun is competing with Wynn Resorts, which has plans to build a $1.6 billion casino in Everett, Mass. Residents in that city, located about two miles from the racetrack, approved the Wynn plan with 86 percent of the vote last June.

Should Mohegan Sun secure the license, Suffolk Downs would be the landlord and Mohegan Sun would own and operate the gaming but have no interest in racing. Nonetheless, Suffolk Downs principal owner, Richard Fields, has pledged that live racing would continue at the 79-year-old track for a minimum of 15 years. That would be a shot in the arm for the state’s Thoroughbred breeding industry as well.

“Second chances are a great thing in life,” said Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle at a raucous victory party at the track. “This is another big step for the future of New England racing. We want nothing more than to be able to race here for another 15 to 20 years, and beyond, and look forward to winning the license and our partnership with Mohegan Sun.”

New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association president Anthony Spadea added, “We’re really excited that we’re moving forward in the process to win the casino license. We are thankful to Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun for working so hard on this.”

Nevertheless, if Wynn Resorts is the successful applicant, Suffolk’s ownership team is on record as saying that live racing would not be economically feasible after the 2014 meet, which is conditionally scheduled to be run from May 3 through Sept. 1.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said on Feb. 24 that due to procedural issues, the decision to award the casino license will likely be pushed back from May 30 to June 30.

The New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association and track management are continuing to work on the contract for the upcoming meet, with purse levels and the number of live dates to be determined among other issues. The backside is scheduled to open on March 23.

1971 Whippet More than 1 year ago
How much if the stable area will be used for the casino? And, with Suffolk remaining in its' present condition, a 15 year promise to continue live racing really doesn't guarantee much, does it. Lots of history. Almost gone.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Hope Suffolk can get a high enough rent from Casino to support the races. I feel it would be much better for Suffolk to get a part of the action or as in many states, have the Casino support and fund the purses at ole Suffolk. Either way it's a farce, as Casino funded purses just raise income for existing owners, I have never seen an increase or influx of new barns to a track due to Casino money other than Aqu.
Leslie Burke Fernandes More than 1 year ago
take a look at charlestown idiot
Paul F More than 1 year ago
people would rather play slots than horses....its a fact and its sad..
Leslie Burke Fernandes More than 1 year ago
racing is for the thinking gambler, that is why the parimutual bettor is always treated second rate in casinos because we do not throw our money mindlessly into the slots. the casinos make moe money from a room full of penny slots than they do from a room full of $100.00 a race bettors paramutual players do not get any perks on player cards or anything like that no dicounts on rooms, NOTHIN' think about it
Frank Leverone More than 1 year ago
I hope Suffolk Downs is awarded the license. Each time I go there I empathize with the management team and workers who honestly try very hard to put on a decent show but get no support from the controlling powers. Bostonians and New Englanders will support racing if it is seasonal and offers decent quality (many, many, many MA and NH cars at Sar). P.S. Stop for a Richie's slush on the way if you want, too.
Suger More than 1 year ago
racing is so rigged . why don't the feds shut tracks down?
Leslie Burke Fernandes More than 1 year ago
because of a few bad ones we should put all the good people out of work at the track and give them jobs cleaning toilets in the hotels right. and just because there is a few bad cops we should have marshal law and just because some vegetables get salmanila we should close down the farms and just because#$%^&$^%$#&$#^U
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its the only tool left for the tracks to compete. It has worked in Louisiana.
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Other than Saratoga, Keeneland and Del Mar, all other tracks need some sort of alternative gambling to survive in this poker/slots dominated era. JMHO....
muskierob More than 1 year ago
What a sellout. These Indian Casinos don't pay taxes on their income. Pathetic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Actually the Indian Casinos at least in California, Louisiana and New Mexico pay money to the states and all of them pay federal taxes.
Leslie Burke Fernandes More than 1 year ago
thats what we get for driving them off their own land to begin with. oh I forgot Christopher Columbus dicovered America.... There were already people here INDIANS
mark oleary More than 1 year ago
Yes, maybe that new found wealth will revive the venerable and historic Massachusetts Handicap, which used to attract some of the biggest horses in the country. Suffolk has a rich heritage despite it's bottom of the barrel reputation. Some of New York's finest hoses used to grace that oval.
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Cigar won back to back editions in 1995 & 1996....
AzHorsePlayer More than 1 year ago
I can't figure out the casino gambler...playing slots is pure luck and they are set to only pay out less than 10% that comes in so why not at least gamble on something where you have some control over like Horse Racing...if your looking for the big score then play a super or pick 6 at least you have some knowledge on what your betting...I mean some people think Poker has stolen the horse race fan away and I was one to give it a try but you talk about luck it's Poker...nothing worse then getting all your money in and having some donk call you and hit his miracle river card...Horse Racing can and should survive but without the right people marketing it then we have no chance...it's a beautiful game so let's try and get it back to where it was:)
davopty More than 1 year ago
there new artist in racing industry, THE STEWARDS!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the state of Louisiana, there are many video poker casinos at truck stops. By law those machines are required to payout 80% of all funds taken in. Most casinos actually payout a high percentage on slots and they advertise this. Louisiana should be be viewed as a prime example for horse racing and casinos working together. All casinos in Louisiana now also have simulcasting of the races. Studies have shown that the average slot player is female and the average horse player is male. Thus combining slots and races raised the number of players across the board. New Mexico casinos also simulcast races and at the tracks it is native American casinos. It helps to level the field.
Eric Singer More than 1 year ago
at the tracks that are supported by gambling, purses are significantly higher and that in turn helps more small barns in the claiming game stay afloat. sure there are potential negatives to this kind of funding and it does help to put more money in the game. over the years there has been a lot of talk about making horse racing better as a product, more accessible, more considerate of the gambler and it is hard to see that anything meaningful has happened in this regard. so load in the $ and join Anil in saying bring back the Mass Cap!