Suffolk Downs Flying Solo in Tomorrow’s Election
Left without a casino partner after it was forced to jettison Caesars Entertainment when Massachusetts gaming regulators – quickly gaining a reputation for being extra-stringent – uncovered alleged criminal connections to an investor involved in a Nevada casino redevelopment project, East Boston racetrack Suffolk Downs will be going it alone in a public referendum scheduled for tomorrow.
At issue is whether or not Suffolk Downs will be approved by voters in East Boston and adjoining Revere to build a Las Vegas style casino on the grounds of its historic racetrack, a neighborhood fixture since 1935.
The vote scheduled for tomorrow, also the day of citywide elections in Boston, may determine the fate of the project, left reeling since the hasty departure of Caesars late last month.
Suffolk Downs still hoping to form new partnership
Suffolk Downs and Caesars had planned to construct a $1 billion casino at the East Boston site, a development that the New York Times says could bring up to 4,000 jobs to the area.
In the wake of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s discovery of possible organized crime affiliations to an investor in the Gansevoort Hotel project, part of a larger rebranding scheme of the old Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall on the Las Vegas Strip, Suffolk Downs requested that Caesars exit the partnership.
Caesars obliged, and at the same time promptly severed ties with New York-based Gansevoort. Both companies and the investor himself, German-born Arik Kislin, denied wrongdoing while roundly condemning Massachusetts officials.
For its part, Suffolk Downs says it was left “blindsided” and would quickly seek to find a new casino partner ahead of a December 31 final application deadline.
At stake is the lone casino license being granted for the Boston area, with another permit to allow casino resorts up for grabs in Western Massachusetts. A gambling expansion law in Massachusetts, passed back in 2011, also allows for the establishment of one slots only gambling parlor; that license is expected to be granted in early January. Before any company will receive licensing consideration, however, all casino plans must be approved by area voters in public elections.
Caesars name will appear on the ballot
The unenviable situation in which Suffolk Downs now finds itself has been fuel for those opposed to the casino plan.
Though Suffolk Downs has said that should it find a new casino to team up with before the year’s end, the partnering company will need to adhere to any plan already approved by voters, anti-casino organizations are quick to note that voters don’t even have a company to approve now that Caesars, which operates casinos in more than 50 worldwide locations, is out.
According to anti-casino groups, just the fact that Caesars’ name will appear on the ballots, with their departure having occurred too recently for the ballots to be made over, points to the fact that voters are not being asked to decide on a clear plan.
“At a certain point, you can’t cancel a vote. But this throws the whole thing into doubt, with voters not really knowing what they’re voting for,” Pamela Wilmot of opposition group Common Cause Massachusetts, was quoted in the Times.