Updated on 12/11/2013 2:09PM

Suffolk Downs: New host community vote required on casino project


Although the Massachusetts Gaming Commission ruled Tuesday that the revised casino license proposal by Suffolk Downs and new gaming partner Mohegan Sun may remain in the hunt for the sole casino license designated for the Boston area, a new vote was ordered to be held by the host community.

During a hearing Tuesday, commissioner James McHugh said that a new vote by residents of Revere was necessary because the track has a new development partner and its plans now called for the entire $1 billion resort casino to be located in Revere.

McHugh’s motion was passed by a unanimous vote of the five-member commission.

The city of Revere and Mohegan Sun were granted seven days to inform the Massachusetts Gaming Commission if they will comply with the directive for another election, which would be scheduled for mid-February.

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, indicated that the track is on board.

“It is gratifying that the commission has provided this option to move forward with the city of Revere where we have enjoyed substantial support,” he said in a statement. “We are very excited as well to move forward with our gaming partner and developer, Mohegan Sun, on its vision for a world-class destination resort on the Revere portion of our property.”

On Nov. 5, referenda were held in East Boston and Revere, with a split decision. Voters in East Boston resoundingly rejected the casino plan, while Revere residents overwhelmingly approved it.

Following the results, Suffolk Downs, which had been partnered with Caesars on the project before the Las Vegas casino giant was informed by the gaming commission it would not pass its background check, teamed up with Mohegan Sun.

Under terms of the agreement with Suffolk Downs, Mohegan Sun would own 100 percent of the casino should it win the license while the racetrack would be the landlord. Consequently, Mohegan Sun would have no obligation under state statute to continue live racing.
Suffolk Downs officials have maintained that they remain committed to running a meet in the event the Massachusetts Gaming Commission grants Mohegan Sun the license.

Bruce Patten, executive director of the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said, “The horsemen are pleased with today’s action because it is another step forward in the process of keeping Thoroughbred racing and breeding alive in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

In related action by the gaming commission Tuesday, a waiver was granted to allow Mohegan Sun’s application to proceed without certified election results before the Dec. 31 deadline for submitting final Phase 2 applications.

Wynn Resorts, which has put forth plans to develop a $1.2 billion casino resort in nearby Everett, is the only other remaining applicant for the Boston license. Steve Wynn will have a suitability hearing before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Dec. 16.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said it remains on schedule to award the license in mid-May.