The Associated Press

Boston, Suffolk Downs Unveil Casino Deal

An architectural rendering of the proposed Resort at Suffolk Downs

An architectural rendering of the proposed Resort at Suffolk Downs

BOSTON — A plan to develop a $1 billion resort casino at Suffolk Downs took a key step forward on Tuesday with the unveiling of a long-awaited host community agreement between the thoroughbred race track and Boston officials.

The deal, announced by Mayor Thomas Menino, calls for $33.4 million in upfront payments and estimates $52 million in annual revenue going to the city if the casino is built. The agreement also promises at least 2,500 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs.

The developers would spend $45 million on transportation improvements in the heavily congested East Boston neighborhood, including a traffic flyover on Route 1A and upgrades to nearby MBTA stations.

The agreement “has more revenue, more guaranteed jobs and more protection than any other agreement in the region,” Menino said.

The state’s 2011 gambling law requires casino developers to negotiate host community agreements, which must then be approved by local voters before developers can seek licenses from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The law allows for three regional resort casinos, including one in eastern Massachusetts.

Suffolk Downs has partnered with Caesars Entertainment on a proposal that calls for a casino, two hotels, restaurants and horse racing on the 163-acre site near Logan International Airport. The plan is one of three that have been offered for the eastern region.

The Boston City Council must now schedule a referendum and decide whether the vote should be limited to residents of the East Boston neighborhood or be decided by the city as a whole.

Menino again made clear Tuesday that he believes only East Boston should vote because it would be impacted far more than any other neighborhood.

City Council President Stephen Murphy said he expected councilors to limit the referendum to that neighborhood.

Because the track straddles East Boston and Revere, a separate host community agreement must be reached with Revere officials. Suffolk Downs was in the final stages of negotiations with Revere, said the track’s principal owner, Joe O’Donnell.

Casino opponents contend it would have a devastating effect on the tight-knit East Boston neighborhood, siphoning off business from local establishments and causing traffic headaches.

Celeste Myers, co-chair of No Eastie Casino, said the volunteer group would work hard to educate voters though it expected to be heavily outspent by Suffolk Downs and casino supporters.

“What we do have is passion,” Myers said. “We have people willing to do what the paid staffers aren’t willing to do.”

In June, Everett voters overwhelmingly approved a host community agreement that calls on Las Vegas casino operator Steve Wynn to make more than $25 million in annual payments to that city if a casino is built along the Mystic River.

Because of the proximity of the site to Boston, Menino has questioned whether Wynn might be required to negotiate a host community agreement with his administration, potentially giving the mayor a chance to slow or block the competing plan.

The operators of Connecticut’s Foxwoods casino have proposed a resort casino in Milford, 30 miles west of Boston.

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  • J__o__h__n

    The entire city should have a vote on the casino and it should be at the mayoral election when people will actually turn out and not rushed through in the special election favored by the gaming commission.

    The impact will be to the entire city. Boston enjoys many concert venues. Casinos poach many concerts and then shorten the shows so more time will be spent gambling. How many people who currently enjoy going to shows in Boston want to wait for the Blue line after 11:00 to get back into the city?

    The mayor thinks that Boston should have a say on whether or not Everett gets a casino due to the impact on Boston. It is hypocritical to not allow all Boston residents to vote on one in Boston.

    The reason offered that only East Boston should have a vote is that it will be the community most affected by the casino. Yet the mayor claims there won’t be an increase in traffic or crime. How will East Boston be affected so that only it gets to vote but also won’t be affected by traffic and crime? The mayor’s expanded waterfront cannot handle current traffic and it is still expanding.

    The claim that people will go to the casino at varying times is laughable. Everyone will go after work and on weekends. The only people who won’t will be the elderly and degenerate gamers. Traffic will be a mess at rush hour. Taking the T won’t help. Red Sox fans could cut back on the 5:00 crowding on the Green line by waiting until the commuters get home first and still get to Fenway with plenty of time before the game but that doesn’t happen. Same thing with the casino.

  • KMH001

    If they are going to allow casinos then why not build one in the city. Suffolk Downs seems like a good spot but the vote belongs to the people who live nearby. The rest of the city will feel the effect but no where as much.

    I also believe that casino opponents oversell the negatives. There are going to be some negative effects but the city can learn from other cities where casinos have opened. Gambling has Ben around almost as long as mankind and I think Boston can learn to live with it.

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