Suffolk Downs

Suffolk Downs

Chip Bott

Commission Considers Suffolk License Appeal

Track officials challenge gaming board's casino decision in favor of Wynn Resorts.

By Lynne Snierson

A request by Suffolk Downs that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission reconsider its decision to award its Boston area casino license to Wynn Resorts didn't get out of the starting gate at a public hearing Oct. 9.

Officials of the track sent a detailed letter to the MGC Oct. 8, citing the recent federal and state indictments and arrests of the three sellers of the Everett, Mass., property on which Steve Wynn plans to develop a $1.6 billion casino, along with other issues.

After the indictments were handed down Oct. 2, the MGC issued a statement that Wynn remained suitable to hold a gaming license as the sellers lied to him as well as to investigators and they would have no role in the casino operation.

At the Oct. 9 hearing, commissioners reiterated that the MGC's Investigative and Enforcement Bureau found no evidence of any wrongdoing by Wynn. Commissioner James McHugh, a former Massachusetts state judge, said he and the other board members would take Suffolk's letter under review before issuing a direct response.

"The commission set up a process to bless the transfer of the Everett land that was both flawed and not followed. We have no argument with the work of the commission's investigative bureau, but the process by which the land transfer was authorized doesn't seem to comply with the law or to meet the integrity standards this commission has set for itself and for the process," Suffolk chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said.

After Suffolk's gaming partner, Mohegan Sun, which had planned a $1.3 billion casino on racetrack grounds, lost out on the Boston license, track officials announced that live racing would come to an end and the track would be shuttered completely in December.

In related news, Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, the MGC's director of racing, gave an update on the three Thoroughbred racing dates "placeholder" applications received by the Oct. 1 deadline.

The New England HBPA's application is for one day  of racing at Suffolk in 2015, to be amended to a minimum of 65 days to comply with current state law for racing on a one-mile oval. The owners of the Brockton Fairgrounds submitted two place holder applications for one day each at the venue, which can be amended to 15 days each for a fair meet.

Public comments on the applications are being solicited on the MGC's website through close of business Oct. 30. Hearings will be held for each applicant in Brockton Oct. 20 and in Boston the following day.

By Nov. 15 the MGC must grant or dismiss each application. If granted, an application would then be required to be completed.

Durenberger also reported that there was a 30% reduction in catastrophic injuries to horses that raced at Suffolk in 2014, and said the rate of 1.24 injuries per 1,000 starters is below the national average of 1.9 per thousand. She said that since most horses at Suffolk have the majority of identified risk factors, the 30% drop is "remarkable."