Is Suffolk Partnership Sign Gaming Will Pass?

Suffolk Downs, hoping for a casino, has partnered with Caesars Entertainment.

by Lynne Snierson

Suffolk Downs has entered into what it terms a “strategic alliance” with Caesars Entertainment Corp. to bolster its chances of developing a destination resort casino on the 163-acre racetrack property should Massachusetts pass legislation to expand gambling.

“Our alliance with premier gaming partner Caesars Entertainment will bring significant management expertise, marketing power, and additional potential investment to enhance our ability to develop a gaming and racing complex commensurate with Boston’s status as a world-class city and tourism destination,” Suffolk Downs managing partner Richard Fields said in an April 14 statement.

Under the terms of the agreement, Sterling Suffolk Racecourse will retain control of the potential development of the property, including licensing, community relations, and labor relations, while Caesars Entertainment will manage a gaming facility at the track should gaming development occur at Suffolk Downs. No decision has been made as to the branding of the facility, and financial terms of the agreement between the two companies were not disclosed.

Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said: “Should Massachusetts authorize casino gaming, we believe that there is no stronger team in place or any better venue than Suffolk Downs, and we look forward to the opportunity to compete to develop this property to create jobs and new revenue for the state.”

Caesars Entertainment is arguably the world’s largest operator of gaming properties, and Fields is a casino developer, rancher, and horse racing enthusiast. He and Joe O’Donnell, a Cambridge, Mass.-based entrepreneur, philanthropist, and former owner of the Boston Culinary Group, are the principal shareholders of Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, which owns the racetrack.

“We are excited to join Joe O’Donnell and Richard Fields in the Suffolk Downs venture,” said Caesars Entertainment chairman and chief executive officer Gary Loveman, a resident of Massachusetts. “We look forward to working together in this exciting venture and to offering our 40 million Total Rewards members around the globe the wonderful experience of visiting this unique, historic area.”

Suffolk Downs will begin its 76th live meet May 21 and run through November. Track management and horsemen, who hammered out a new two-year contract this past winter, are hopeful this will be the year an expanded gambling measure finally passes in the state legislature.

Last July a bill that called for the construction of destination resort casinos and the addition of slot machines at racetracks died in the legislative session when Gov. Deval Patrick, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, and Senate President Therese Murray, who are all Democrats, supported the plan but could not concur on the number of casinos to be allowed. Patrick, Murray, and DeLeo, who represents the district where Suffolk is located, are now said to be closer to reaching a compromise.