By Lynne Snierson
The race for the sole destination resort casino license designated for the Boston area won’t be a walkover. Now Suffolk Downs will face formidable competition from Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn.
After touring a 37-acre parcel in Everett, Mass. that is the site of the old Monsanto Chemical plant with a team of officials from the city and his company last month, Wynn reportedly signed a lease for the land. His plans to develop a $1 billion casino project there stand in direct competition with Suffolk Downs’ desire to build a $1 billion gaming facility on the 163-acre racetrack grounds with partner Caesar’s Entertainment.
Wynn’s project would include the casino, a hotel, restaurants, retail stores, and entertainment venues. There has been no mention of a racetrack associated with Wynn’s plans.
“We believe that Wynn will put in an application (with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission),” Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. told reporters. “What we do now is negotiate a host (community) agreement.”
A senior management official of Suffolk Downs, which is in the process of negotiating host community agreements with East Boston and communities adjacent to the track, declined to comment on this latest development when reached. But the track has already submitted its formal application with the required $400,000 fee to the gaming commission. The deadline is Jan. 15. No casino developer other than Wynn has stepped forward for the Boston area license at this juncture.
Everett city officials said last month that Hard Rock International had expressed interest in the same parcel of land Wynn is leasing. Nonetheless, officials of the Big E Agricultural Fair in West Springfield, Mass. released a statement Dec. 13 saying that Hard Rock has opened talks about developing a casino on their 175-acre property.
West Springfield falls into the area designated for Western Massachusetts. Industry titans MGM, Penn National Gaming, and Mohegan Sun are currently competing for that region’s only license.
In a related development, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission ruled that developers will now be allowed to open the casino projects in stages. Earlier this year, Suffolk Downs officials received flak from Boston Mayor Tom Menino for planning to open a slots facility at the track before construction of the rest of the $1 billion dollar project was completed.