Boston Signs Casino Agreement with Suffolk Downs

Boston Mayor Tom Menino signs the Boston casino agreementwith Suffolk Downs on Tuesday.

Boston Mayor Tom Menino signs the Boston casino agreement
with Suffolk Downs on Tuesday.

With a Steve Wynn resort casino being proposed next door in Everett and a Suffolk Down/Caesars Entertainment resort casino being proposed for East Boston, Charlestown residents have found themselves in the middle and, thusly, have been watching closely all the developments in the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s (MGC) licensing application process.

To that end, there was a significant happening Tuesday when Mayor Thomas Menino signed a casino host community agreement with Suffolk Downs/Caesars Entertainment that is projected to bring $52 million in annual payments to Boston and 4,000 permanent jobs.

The city of Revere is currently reviewing its agreement, for which negotiations concluded nearly six months ago, and has not yet signed its host community agreement with Suffolk Downs. It is believed that Revere officials will sign an agreement with Suffolk Downs by the end of the week.

Suffolk Downs/Caesars is in direct competition with the proposal in Everett by the Wynn Group. With Wynn flying through the process earlier this summer and Everett residents voting overwhelmingly to support the construction of a casino on the former Monsanto site, the proposal at Suffolk Downs seemed to be bogged down by the Boston negotiations.

That all ended on Tuesday with the signing of the host community agreement at Boston City Hall.

Boston would receive $52 million per year, including impact fees and property tax payments. However, those payments are determined by the performance of the resort. If the performance of the casino at Suffolk comes in below expectations, those payments could be smaller. However, the lowest possible payment is $32 million.

In contrast, Everett would get annual payments of $25.5 million per year, which includes $20 million in tax payments and $5 million in annual impact fees.

Boston negotiated a $33.4 million one-time community investment payment, while Everett received a $30 million one time fee.

Suffolk Downs also committed to $45 million in transportation and infrastructure improvements to Boston and Revere.

In addition to the Wynn and Suffolk Downs bids, the other applicant for the one Greater Boston gaming license is Foxwoods, who is proposing to build a casino in Milford.

A spokesman for Foxwoods told the Patriot Bridge on Tuesday that a host community agreement is nearly finished, and the Milford Town Council could approve an agreement by next week.

For Charlestown residents, one issue of note in the next stop of the Suffolk Downs process is the community referendum vote.

However, just who votes on it is at issue.

Currently, the law states that it would just be a vote of the ward of the City that only encompasses East Boston. Several mayoral candidates and others have recently been stumping for a vote that would encompass the entire city, something that would certainly threaten the success of the vote as it is believed many in far-flung neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury oppose the casino.

That issue will be determined by the City Council, and that is a battle that will begin playing out almost immediately and could end in Charlestown voters going to the polls just prior to Halloween for a vote.

It will be a particularly interesting battle on the City Council as several of the City Councillors are running for mayor and might find pressure to go with a citywide vote. It will likely end up acting as a proving ground for casino politics leading up to the Sept. 24th Preliminary Election.

Suffolk Downs must submit a completed Phase II application to the Mass Gaming Commission (MGC) – complete with the signed host agreement and the certified results of a successful referendum vote – by Dec. 31st.

The MGC has said it would make a decision on the Greater Boston license by the end of April.

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