As Suffolk Downs seeks a new partner for a planned East Boston casino and offers reassurances ahead of a Nov. 5 vote, it is facing calls to withdraw its application.
Suffolk split ways with its partner Caesars Entertainment amid a background check by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which Caesars said used standards that are “arbitrary, unreasonable and inconsistent with those that exist in every other gaming jurisdiction.”
Now in flux, the horse track owners seeking to build a resort casino near the beach between East Boston and Revere, are facing calls from their antagonist, No Eastie Casino, to drop out of the running.
“Even if Sterling Suffolk is able to secure a new operating partner on short notice, our community will be forced to decide on a proposal which will now be fundamentally and materially different from the original Caesars partnership in dozens of critical respects,” the group wrote, saying proceeding to the vote two weeks away would constitute a “bait and switch” and “a flagrant abuse of the trust which Suffolk Downs have enjoyed in this community for generations.”
Chip Tuttle appeared in a video message to reaffirm the company’s commitment to create 4,000 jobs, hire locally, and be a good neighbor.
“Recently we changed the company that will manage gaming operations here if we’re successful in earning a license,” Tuttle said in the video. “What hasn’t changed? Our plans to develop a world-class destination resort.”
Gov. Deval Patrick who signed the 2011 gaming law, said he supports the Gaming Commission and declined to opine Monday on whether the vote should be pushed off. For Boston voters, Nov. 5 is also the first mayoral election in 20 years where Mayor Tom Menino will not appear as a candidate, as City Councilor John Connolly and Rep. Martin Walsh vie to succeed him.
“I think the Gaming Commission is doing a great job making sure we get into this new area wisely and carefully, and I support them,” Patrick said. Asked about moving the vote, he said, “Why do you keep asking me about gaming? We set up the gaming framework the way we did so that you would ask these questions of the Gaming Commission, not me.”
The Gaming Commission plans to release its redacted background check report ahead of an Oct. 29 meeting to determine the suitability of the prospective casino developers.
Suffolk Downs Sterling Suffolk Racecourse applied for the license before last winter’s deadline for phase one applications, and signed host community agreements in late August.
Bringing in a new partner would require commission approval, according to a commission official.
Last minute changes in ownership would not be without precedent.
In September, Penn National Gaming, which had previously failed to win over municipal officials in Springfield and Tewksbury, sought to partner with Plainridge Racecourse, in Plainville, for its slots license application.
Plainridge had previously sought to win a license on its own, but the group was deemed unsuitable after revelations about former track president Gary Piontkoski's personal cash withdrawals from the track's money room.
The commission allowed Penn National to go forward with the Sept. 10 vote, which passed 76 percent to 24 percent.
Suffolk had already previously lost former real estate partner Vornado Realty Trust, which backed out amid the commission’s background check scrutiny.
Critics have also called into question Caesars and Suffolk’s revenue projections, saying $1 billion in revenue is an unrealistic goal.
“This is pure magical thinking that Caesars, a company in financial ruin, who just yesterday according to the Wall Street Journal filed restructuring plans with the SEC, will fulfill this magical wishlist negotiated with Boston – 4,000 jobs and $1 Billion in revenue,” former mayoral candidate Bill Walczak said in a statement in September, when he called for a citywide vote. “It absolutely ludicrous!”