A new chapter is unfolding in the continuing drama with Suffolk Downs and their bid to build a casino in East Boston. After parting ways with Caesars Entertainment, it looked as if the race track company was on the path to losing the community’s confidence and approval. The company is now hedging all their bets on a new partnership with a group that knows a thing or two about rejection in Massachusetts.
Friends Through Mutual Failure
That new partner is Connecticut-based casino company Mohegan Sun. Officials from the two companies decided upon the terms of their partnership deal after a round of negotiations. Suffolk Downs then formally announced the deal by naming Mohegan Sun as development partner and operator for the casino.
When striking this new deal, Suffolk Downs likely saw common ground in their new partner. It turns out that Mohegan Sun has also had trouble gaining footing in Massachusetts. The company hoped to be a developer in the city of Palmer but was rejected after a community vote. However, it was only a narrow loss by 93 votes out of 5,200; a recount was done last week and pushed the losing count up to 94 votes.
In an admirable show of tenacity, Mohegan Sun still plans to stake their claim in Palmer. The company is instead looking to develop a non-gaming property on the 152-acre location rather than a casino. “For more than five years we were committed to Palmer and believed in our project’s ability to deliver a promising future with more than $16 million in annual revenue, thousands of new jobs, new opportunities for small business and economic development throughout the region,” said a statement by the company. Suffolk Downs likely sees this dedication as a plus in their partnership.
Trouble with Massachusetts
Following the ups and downs with both Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun sheds light on the difficulties of establishing a casino in Massachusetts. Caesars Entertainment faced trouble when the state’s Gaming Commission caught wind of potential Russian mob ties during a background check. Despite Caesars cutting ties with the accused, Suffolk Downs distanced themselves from the company. Other big casino names such as Steve Wynn threw their hat into the ring but faced equal scrutiny. Caesars even went so far as to claim that the Gaming Commission was setting arbitrary and unreasonable standards.
During their original partnership with Caesars Entertainment, Suffolk Downs had planned on building a casino in East Boston that would also toe the Revere town line. But dropping Caesars in an attempt to circumvent rejection put Suffolk Downs on too shaky of ground for voters and the casino bid was shot down. While East Boston was lost, Revere approved the plan, giving Suffolk Downs the option of building a casino in Revere. It might be a good alternative for Suffolk Downs but first the Gaming Commission needs to approve the change.
Having Mohegan Sun as a partner definitely helps Suffolk Downs because they have already managed to pass the Gaming Commission’s notorious background check. The deal is even sweeter because Mohegan Sun has experience in the area with those in Massachusetts accustomed to the company’s presence in Connecticut. Regardless, this is likely the last chance Suffolk Downs has on winning this elusive East Boston bid. License applications close on December 31 and it would be quite difficult for the company to find a new partner suitable enough to endure the background checks in a timely manner.