The state gambling commission today cleared the path for a new casino vote in Revere, probably in February, to permit a Revere-only Suffolk Downs casino plan to remain in the competition for the sole Eastern Massachusetts casino license.
Revere voters on Nov. 5 endorsed gambling on the East Boston portion of the Suffolk Downs property. But when East Boston voters rejected the idea on the same day, Suffolk Downs struck a deal with Mohegan Sun to develop a casino on the portion of the property in Revere.
During a hearing today, gambling Commissioner James McHugh argued that the five-member panel should hear anew from Revere voters because the new project had changed substantially from what was on the table when Revere voted last month.
The panel should “treat the proposal for what it is-- a different and new proposal,” said McHugh.
Ultimately, the vote in favor of permitting a new referendum was unanimous.
The commission required the developer to decide within 7 days whether to accept the opportunity to hold a new vote. Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said after the meeting that the developers likely will accept.
Casino opponents were disappointed the commission did not kill Mohegan Sun’s plans, and pledged to campaign against the proposal.
The commission’s actions keep alive potential competition for what is considered the most lucrative casino license available in the state. Suffolk Downs has struggled to stay in the race, while the only other applicant for the Boston area casino license, Wynn Resorts, readily won the backing of voters in Everett where the company is proposing a $1.3 billion gaming resort.
Suffolk Downs’ original proposal called for two hotels, a casino, spa, and other amenities on the East Boston side of the city line passing through the roughly 163-acre track property.
Under the new proposal, planned entirely within Revere, Suffolk Downs would be a landlord, not the casino owner. Plans call for Mohegan Sun to build and own the casino on land leased from Suffolk Downs, independent of the track.
The new arrangement would no longer require Suffolk Downs to continue horse racing, though track officials have pledged to keep racing.Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark