The proposed Mohegan Sun Casino at Suffolk Downs.

The proposed Mohegan Sun Casino at Suffolk Downs.

Courtesy Suffolk Downs

Suffolk Partner Makes Pitch for Casino

Mohegan Sun executive says land lease is critical to future of Suffolk Downs.

by Lynne Snierson

As part of Mohegan Sun's final presentation to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission Jan. 22, chief executive officer Mitchell Etess said live Thoroughbred racing will be preserved at Suffolk Downs should the gaming giant prove successful in winning the sole destination resort casino designated for the Boston area.

"Without the revenue from the land lease, the owners of Suffolk Downs cannot continue to sustain their losses," Etess said while discussing the continuity of Suffolk Downs as part of his 10-point final summation.

Mohegan Sun, which has proposed a development in excess of $1 billion on the Revere side of the racetrack grounds, is competing with Wynn Resorts' $1.6 billion plan for the license. Under Massachusetts statute, should Mohegan Sun prevail the racing and gaming operations must be separated completely.

Even though the MGC does not intend to award the casino license until sometime in May, Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said Jan. 22 the track does plan to host a live meet in 2014. Nonetheless, he and representatives of the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association have yet to negotiate a purse agreement or settle on dates, though Tuttle said he expects talks to continue.

At the end of last year, the track applied for 100 dates as required by law, and the MGC granted the racing license.

Still, the location of the barn area remains an issue should Mohegan Sun prevail. The 42 acres located on the Revere side that Suffolk Downs leased to the gaming concern includes the barn area, so it would have to be torn down and moved to the East Boston side of the property or off site.

Renovation of part of the existing grandstand to house as many as 750 horses, and the construction of several new barns is under discussion. Another option would be to stable and train the horses off site and then ship them to the track to race as is done in other parts of the country.

Should Wynn Resorts, which also made its final presentationto the MGC Jan. 22 led by CEO Steve Wynn, ultimately prove successful in garnering the casino license, the future of Suffolk Downs is bleak. Tuttle said the track has been losing money since 2007, and he echoed Etess' statement that the racing operation is no longer sustainable on its own.