By Lynne Snierson
It's back to the starting gate for Suffolk Downs and new gaming and development partner Mohegan Sun after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission Dec. 10 decided that another referendum must be held in the city of Revere before the proposal to construct a $1 billion casino on racetrack grounds may move forward.
On Nov. 5, Revere voters approved by a 60-40 margin a ballot question calling for the casino project to be built on the East Boston side of the racetrack, which also straddles Revere. Moreover, Mohegan Sun had not yet replaced Caesar's, which was deemed unsuitable by the MGC in late October, as the track's partner.
East Boston residents overwhelming rejected the plan in a separate referendum on the same day.
Officials of Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun, who have since relocated the plans for the casino to the Revere-only side of the 163-acre racetrack grounds, were hopeful that the MGC would vote to allow the Nov. 5 vote in Revere to stand. That would have allowed their new proposal to proceed in the process to win the sole casino license designated for the Greater Boston region.
But commissioner James McHugh, an attorney and former state appeals court judge, argued that Revere voters must have their say now that both plans and the development partner have changed. The five-member commission agreed unanimously in a voice vote.
Under the former agreement between Suffolk Downs and Caesar's, the track's ownership group would have retained 96% of the casino project and been required by state law to continue live racing. The deal with Mohegan Sun calls for it to hold 100% ownership of the project, with Suffolk being only the landlord. Mohegan Sun is not required to hold a race meet, although Suffolk Downs officials have maintained that it is their intention to continue live racing should Mohegan Sun be awarded the casino license.
The deadline for submission of final Phase 2 applications is Dec. 31, but now the MGC will grant a waiver to its requirement that certified results from an election in the host community accompany that application.
It is now incumbent upon the city of Revere and Mohegan Sun to inform the MGC within seven days whether to accept the order to hold a new election. That election would take place in the middle of February 2014.
The commissioners said they remain on schedule to decide by mid-May whether Mohegan Sun or Wynn Resorts, which is moving forward with its proposal to develop a $1.2 billion casino resort in the city of Everett not far from Suffolk Downs, will be awarded the lucrative Boston-area license.
Below are prepared statements from Mitchell Etess, CEO of Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, and Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo following the Dec. 10 Massachusetts Gaming Commission hearing:
"We look forward to working in cooperation with our host community of Revere on the path the Commission outlined today," said Etess. "Mohegan Sun's strong brand recognition combined with Suffolk Downs' more than 75 year history truly makes this a home team project. We are grateful for the strong support of residents, business leaders and elected officials in Revere and throughout the region. Our resort casino will create thousands of new jobs, new opportunities for small businesses and additional economic development and tourism throughout the region."
"On behalf of our family of employees and horsemen and women, it is gratifying that the Commission has provided this option to move forward with the City of Revere where we have enjoyed substantial support," said Tuttle. "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. We look forward to the next steps."
"Today the Massachusetts Gaming Commission asked the City of Revere to move forward with another vote on a resort style casino in our community," said Rizzo. "The partnership between the City of Revere, Mohegan Sun, and Suffolk Downs represents an opportunity to develop a world-class destination resort that will make the City of Revere proud as a host community, that will benefit the entire region with new jobs and economic development, and that will become the signature project for Massachusetts in the resort gaming industry. My administration will be making every effort over the coming weeks to discuss the new proposal with the public in a transparent and open nature."