Updated on 09/18/2014 9:59AM

Wynn Resorts gets lone Boston-area casino license

Email

A stake was driven through the heart of the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry in New England on Tuesday, when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 3-1 to award the sole Boston-area casino license to Wynn Resorts instead of to Mohegan Sun and partner Suffolk Downs.

Wynn officials must come back to the commission Wednesday morning to agree to a final list of conditions for the license, and then commissioners will take a final vote. But that is perceived as a formality.

Wynn will then move forward with plans to develop a $1.6 billion destination resort casino two miles from the stable gate of the 79-year-old racetrack, which is the last remaining of the 17 Thoroughbred tracks that once operated in New England.

“We are extraordinarily disappointed as this action is likely to cost the commonwealth thousands of jobs, small businesses, and family farms,” Suffolk chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said in a statement. “We will be meeting with employees and horsemen over the next several days to talk about how we wind down racing operations as a 79-year legacy of Thoroughbred racing in Massachusetts will be coming to an end, resulting in unemployment and uncertainty for many hardworking people.”

Had Mohegan Sun’s competing proposal to build a $1.3 billion casino on a portion of the racetrack grounds succeeded, Suffolk’s ownership was committed to continue live racing for a minimum of 15 years and implement a $40 million racing-improvement plan.

“The gaming commission’s decision is bitterly disappointing as our horsemen have worked so hard for so long to secure a bright future for Thoroughbred racing at Suffolk Downs and for our breeding industry in Massachusetts,” said Anthony Spadea, president of the New England chapter of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

“Now our entire industry, which provided 1,500 direct and indirect jobs in the commonwealth with an annual economic impact of $116 million, has been shut down. There are many Massachusetts horsemen who could have moved away and raced elsewhere or sold their breeding farms and open green space to developers, but they stayed here over the years and invested in racing with the hope of what might have been. Now that hope is destroyed as they will all be out of business.”

One of the conditions imposed upon Wynn Resorts by the commission is to give hiring preference to qualified applicants who are Suffolk Downs employees. But since it will take a minimum of three years to build the casino, and not every track employee will be deemed qualified for a position at the casino, many track employees will be without work when the Suffolk meet ends Oct. 1.

There is a statewide referendum on the November ballot to repeal the 2011 law that expanded gambling. If it passes, the decision to award the Boston license to Wynn will be upended. Current polling of registered voters in Massachusetts indicates that the repeal is unlikely.