WBUR

Suffolk Downs Bets Big On Casino License

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer at Suffolk Downs, is hoping the thoroughbred racetrack will receive one of two casino licenses being considered on Beacon Hill. (Lisa Tobin/WBUR)

BOSTON — Suffolk Downs in East Boston is considered one of the best bets to win a casino license under gambling legislation on Beacon Hill. And the thoroughbred racetrack is one step closer after the House voted Wednesday to authorize two resort-style casinos in the state.

The 75-year-old track is partnering with Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere to compete for the rights to build one of the casinos. Both tracks also stand to gain from House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s plan to allow slot machines at all of the state’s four racetracks.

For Suffolk Downs, the success or failure of the gambling bill could determine the fate of the track. Its racing operation hasn’t turned a profit since 2001 and on-site wagering has dropped 34 percent over the last five years.

Video: Seabiscuit at Suffolk Downs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sc_oQWTPVeY/embed]

Chip Tuttle, the chief operating officer at Suffolk Downs, says the track already has preliminary plans to transform the site into an entertainment and gaming complex — “with horse racing as a centerpiece.”

Standing on the cavernous first floor of the grandstand, well past its heyday, Tuttle looks around and imagines what a visitor to the track might see if the gambling legislation goes through and Suffolk Downs wins a casino license.

“This grandstand that we’re standing in could have a gaming floor, could have table games,” Tuttle says. “You know, you could be standing right now in what would be a small entertainment venue or a food court or a high-end restaurant.”

In making the case for Suffolk Downs, Tuttle points out that the track has already been a gambling destination since 1935, so much of the needed infrastructure is in place.

“We have occupancy permits here for 38,000 people,” he says. “Unfortunately for us, we don’t get those kinds of crowds anymore. Those were the crowds that were here in the 1930s and the 1940s when Seabiscuit ran here.”

The crowd at Suffolk Downs, 1935 (Courtesy of Suffolk Downs)

The crowd at Suffolk Downs, 1935 (Courtesy of Suffolk Downs)

“We have this building,” he goes on, “the buildings on the grounds are about 800,000 square feet, on 163 acres with 5,500 surface parking spaces — you know, we’re already in the gambling business.”

DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick have all said that they support casino gambling as an economic stimulus and source of jobs. Tuttle says Suffolk Downs could add 2,000 to 3,000 new employees to its current staff of about 1,000 during the live racing season.

“That’s a considerable value for us, but also the surrounding towns,” Tuttle says. “East Boston, Revere, Everett, Lynn, Malden — what the speaker refers to as the ‘blue-collar depression.’”

Tuttle says the casino would also be good for tourism in Boston.

As for the thoroughbred racing, Tuttle says he’s not worried that a casino and the new crowd it brings in will take away from the track’s long tradition.

“There’s a lot of history here, there’s a lot of legacy,” he says. “Our responsibility is to do this in a way that integrates horse racing and gaming in a way that hasn’t been done before. That’s really the vision for the property and the vision for development here.”

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  • SouthieSully

    Suffolk Downs is not to be trusted. The promised to have “zero tolerance” for the disgusting practice of horse slaughter, but went back on their word and have allowed back trainers who were busted shipping their used up horses off the the glue factory and tables in France & Japan. See these stories for proof of how low they will go for a buck:

    http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/national-news/2009/April/10/Banned-Suffolk-Downs-trainers-get-licenses-reinstated.aspx

    http://www.bluemassgroup.com/diary/19497/suffolk-downs-ended-zero-tolerance-policy-on-horse-slaughter-a-year-ago-but-still-takes-credit

  • Sport of Kings

    SouthieSully….I am on the backstretch…and the banned trainers thought they gave their horses to a camp…and were fooled by the two that are still banned. No vans shipping horses to slaughter have been seen on the grounds in my last two years….and I am their a lot. No one wants to harm horses on the Suffolk Downs backstretch…come visit you will see.

  • SouthieSully

    SportofKings…it’s easy to make excuses after you’re busted shipping an old horse to the glue factory or a restaurant in Japan, which is the whole reason Suffolk Downs claimed they were instituting a “zero tolerance” policy in the first place. As the track’s COO Chip Tuttle himself said when the trainers were caught: “What’s the sense of having this policy if we’re going to let people skirt around it. The bottom line is that these horses were endangered and en route to being slaughtered less than 48 hours after leaving here, and the people responsible for them have the responsibility to help us prevent that.”

    http://www.thoroughbredtimes.com/national-news/2008/November/07/Five-banned-in-Suffolk-slaughter-policy.aspx

    Those trainers who Suffolk Downs claimed to be getting a “zero tolerance” policy were actually reinstated before the next season even started, and didn’t miss any racing at all. What a big deterrent that is! “Zero tolerance” was a total lie, and is basically looks like a phony pr stunt as part of the quest for casinos. If Suffolk Downs can’t even be trusted to keep their word on a disgusting and obvious thing like not tolerating the butchery of their star performers when they have to retire, why should they possibly be trusted with slots?

  • http://suffolkdowns robert caplette

    the casino would help with jobs and aid in building a better racing of horses in mass we should be helping with yhe passing of any bills

  • http://www.turfrace.net Horse Betting

    Incredible ! You definitely have performed an excellent effort putting these inputs about Suffolk Downs Bets Big On Casino License.. I think that’s good idea.

  • Anonymous

    thanks for posting this but i don’t really think that what is in this article is a good idea. they have to invest and put their minds on to something more important not just about these gambling stuff. thanks!

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