By Lynne Snierson
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided on Dec. 3 to defer until next week a ruling on whether Suffolk Downs and new partner Mohegan Sun can legally relocate a proposed $1 billion casino resort project from the East Boston side of the racetrack property to the section located entirely within the city of Revere.
Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, which originally was partnered with Caesar's but terminated the agreement in late October after the gaming commission informed track officials that the Las Vegas-based casino giant would not pass its background check, announced its new deal with Mohegan Sun on Nov. 28.
Suffolk Downs straddles the cities of East Boston and Revere and the new partnership was formed after host agreement votes were held in both communities on Nov. 5. While the ballot question to locate a casino at the track was resoundingly defeated in East Boston, it was overwhelming approved in Revere, prompting Suffolk to revise its plans.
At issue is whether the Revere vote is binding due to the changes in the track's plans. There is a Dec. 31 deadline for submission of the Phase 2 application and consequently, no time for another city-wide vote. Should the gaming commission rule in favor of Suffolk's request, members of an anti-casino coalition in East Boston have threatened a lawsuit.
Suffolk Downs officials could not be reached for comment, but Mitchell Etess, the chief executive officer of the Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun, told reporters after the meeting that he expected the commissioners to delay the vote so they could give the matter more consideration.
Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts, which has completed the Phase 1 application to build a $1.2 billion resort casino in the City of Everett, remains as Suffolk's only other competitor for the sole casino designated for the Greater Boston region. Wynn will have his suitability hearing before the commission on Dec. 16.
Foxwoods Resorts had been in the running, but its proposal was resoundingly rejected by the host community of Milford in a Nov. 19 election.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 14, the gaming commission granted Suffolk the right to run a 100-day live meet in 2014 from June 2 through Nov. 28. While Suffolk chief operating officer Chip Tuttle has previously stated that the track intends to run next year, there are no guarantees in light of the uncertainty over its hopes to secure the casino license.