Suffolk Downs files formal casino development plan with Boston Redevelopment Authority

The owners of the Suffolk Downs racetrack have filed formal plans to build a $1 billion gambling resort on the East Boston property, kicking off its development review process under the pro-casino administration of Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

In a document released Tuesday by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Suffolk Downs proposes to build a sprawling resort that would include up to 250,000 square feet of gaming space, two luxury hotels, meeting and conference space, retail stores and as many as 17 new restaurants.

By filing the paperwork now, Suffolk Downs begins its review before a new mayor takes office in Boston. Some of the candidates for mayor do not support a casino at the racetrack, while Menino has remained an ardent supporter.

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Last week, the track inked a host community agreement with Menino that guarantees Boston an annual payment of at least $32 million if a casino is developed at Suffolk Downs. The deal, which still must be approved by East Boston voters, also guarantees the creation of 4,000 jobs and a $33.4 million up front payment to East Boston.

It is unclear whether Suffolk Downs will push to get its development approvals before Menino leaves office. That review, conducted by the BRA, will concern the precise details of its development plan, including the size and architecture of the buildings, how many restaurants will be allowed, and how the resort would handle traffic and parking, among other matters.

Mayoral candidates Bill Walczak and Charles Clemons have strongly opposed a casino at Suffolk Downs, while Dan Conley has pushed for more discussion about the development of the property.

The development review process will unfold concurrently with Suffolk Downs’ more immediate fight to win the only state gambling license to be awarded in the Boston region. Others seeking that license include casino mogul Steve Wynn, who wants to build a resort along the Mystic River in Everett, and Foxwoods Massachusetts, which is proposing to develop a casino in Milford. The state’s gaming commission is expected to choose the winning proposal early next year.

In recent weeks, Wynn and Everett officials have openly accused Menino of unfairly obstructing the Everett proposal by seeking to give Boston more influence in the review process. Representatives of Wynn and Menino are expected to discuss the dispute Wednesday at a meeting of the state’s gaming commission.

Suffolk Downs’ filing with the BRA provides just the broad outlines of its plans to develop a casino resort in East Boston. The document indicates there would be two distinct gambling areas with up to 6,600 gaming positions to be divided between slot machines and table games. It would also include a World Series of poker room, two luxury hotels with up to 450 rooms, 30,000 square feet or retail space and between 10 and 17 restaurants with casual and fine dining concepts.

Parking would be contained in a seven-story garage with 2,600 spaces, along with a surface lot of up to 2,100 spaces.

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