BOSTON — Mayor Thomas Menino is considering asking to postpone a voter referendum scheduled for Nov. 5 in East Boston and Revere on a proposed casino at Suffolk Downs.
The mayor wants to give Suffolk Downs time to find a new management partner after it asked Caesars Entertainment to withdraw from the casino application after state regulators raised concerns about Caesars in its background report.
Menino, who supports the Suffolk Downs proposal, says the process will move forward.
“It shows that the process put in place by the state gaming commission works and Suffolk Downs reacted as quickly as possible,” Menino said. “Now they have to find a new operator of the casino and they have to do it in record time.”
Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, says he’s confident the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will ultimately deem the project suitable for a casino license.
“The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is clearly setting rigorous standards here, we have no problem with that,” Tuttle said. “We have always been ready to meet those standards and earn a license.”
Suffolk Downs is competing with two other proposals for the single casino license in eastern Massachusetts, including one in Everett from Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn.
Clyde Barrow, director for the center of policy analysis and a casino expert at UMass Dartmouth, says there’s plenty of time for Suffolk Downs to find a new partner to manage the proposed facility.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Steve Wynn is even contemplating joining Suffolk Downs in a joint proposal. There’s the Hard Rock, which was turned down in a referendum in West Springfield, they’ll be looking for a new partner,” Barrow said. “And I think so long as Suffolk Downs can get through the referendum, they’re still a viable competitor when they go before the gaming commission.”
The mayor’s office says it would like to see Suffolk Downs have a new partner before it goes to a vote, and says it wants to work with the secretary of state and the gaming commission to explore options for postponing the vote.
Celeste Myers, with the group No Eastie Casino, says the recent developments will help its campaign against the casino.
“It already gives us fodder,” she said. “It reassures us what we already knew and hopefully it kind of opens the eyes of folks who had faith in Suffolk Downs decision making.”
Recent polls have shown voters lean slightly in favor of the casino.
“What’s sitting there now is a racetrack. It’s already Suffolk Downs. I think having something nicer there could only be better,” said resident Dean Cerrato.
Lifelong East Boston resident Kenny Grifoni says it could provide economic opportunity.
“I’m for it. You’ve got to bring jobs to the neighborhood,” Grifoni said. “You’ve got a total new influx of people that need jobs.”
In light of the recent news and the upcoming vote, the state gaming commission says it will move up its release date of its background investigation into Suffolk Downs proposal.