09/16/2007 11:00PM

Suffolk would bid for casino license

EmailSuffolk Downs in East Boston, Mass., plans to make a bid for one of three casino licenses that the state may auction off as part of a proposal by Gov. Deval Patrick, track officials said on Monday.

Suffolk would be one of a number of companies that are expected to express interest in the casinos, the centerpiece of Gov. Patrick's plan to reduce property taxes and fund infrastructure improvement in Massachusetts. The Patrick proposal, which would have to be approved by the state legislature, estimates that the three casinos would generate $400 million in funds for state government annually.

Chip Tuttle, the chief operating officer of Suffolk, said Monday that the track would put together a bid for the casino license available for the greater Boston area. The other two licenses - expected to raise $200 million each in an auction - are envisioned for sites in the southeastern and western regions of Massachusetts.

Efforts to legalize slot machines at the state's parimutuel facilities have failed in the past, in part because of opposition from former Gov. Mitt Romney.

Patrick's proposal does not include any revenue to subsidize purses at racetracks, in a departure from the strategies of many states that have turned to casino-type gambling in recent years. Tuttle would not say specifically whether any bid by Suffolk Downs would include direct subsidies for horsemen from casino revenues, but that the bid would "integrate racing and gaming in a way that is beneficial to horsemen."

Richard Fields, a casino and real-estate developer who is a major contributor to political causes, bought a majority share in Suffolk Downs earlier this year. Fields is the co-developer of the Seminole Hard Rock casinos and hotels in Tampa Bay and Hollywood, Fla.