Suffolk Downs made it official last week and formally declared its intent to compete for one of Massachusetts’ commercial gaming licenses by filing the state’s form and submitting the required non-refundable $400,000 fee with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
“We begin this formal part of earning a license to develop a world-class destination resort at our 77-year-old racetrack with great enthusiasm and with the understanding that our project must set the standard for gaming development in Massachusetts,” said Richard Fields, Suffolk Downs principal owner. “With our partners, Caesars Entertainment, we are committed to a proposal that will create more jobs, tourism benefits and local economic development than any other project in the state.”
In June, Fields and Suffolk Downs rolled out its $1 billion plan to the community and have since hosted several community meetings with local civic groups to discuss mitigation, potential business opportunities as well as traffic plans.
“We understand that to earn this license the onus is on us to not only capture revenue currently being lost to neighboring states but to drive visitors to the area, to create thousands of new jobs and to develop long term partnerships with local businesses and cultural institutions,” said Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle.
The Caesars-branded resort at Suffolk Downs will include a hotel, restaurants, a casino gaming complex, retail and a multi-use entertainment venue while preserving horse racing at New England’s last remaining Thoroughbred racing venue.
The announcement was immediately met with a letter of opposition from the growing grassroots effort to block a casino from coming to East Boston, No Eastie Casino.
“With Suffolk Downs now officially in the running for one of three casino licenses that will be awarded statewide, the review process for the racetrack and its development partner, Caesars Entertainment, begins,” said the group in a letter. “Gaming officials ensure that this review process will be a thorough, careful analysis of each developer’s financial viability and business practices. Upon investigating Caesars, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission should reject Suffolk Downs’ application to build a casino.”
The group accused Suffolk Downs of bringing a Trojan horse into a family-oriented, tight-knit neighborhood and urged the racetrack to sever ties with Caesars. The group also urged the City of Boston and Mayor Thomas Menino to stand against a businesses they feel will prey on its residents.
“On the surface, Caesars may seem like a top-performing, admirable corporation in a booming industry,” said the letter. “But when you pull back the diamond-studded curtain, one finds a debt-saddled company that mistreats its employees, preys on the vulnerability of problem gamblers, shirks its tax responsibility, and secretly knows the casino market is saturated and in decline.”
The group, with 200 members according to its Facebook page, pointed to Caesars being in $19.9 billion in debt, argued the company uses predatory marketing to hook habitual gamblers, accused Caesars of mistreating employees and using tax loop holes to pay less in property tax on its other investments in the country.
Caesars industry-leading debt and low credit rating have resulted in the company being forced to pay an interest rate of 15 percent — close to 70 percent higher than the gambling industry average of 9 percent,” said the letter. “Recently, it was reported that within a few weeks of the grand opening of Cleveland’s celebrated Horseshoe Casino, “lots of people” were already quitting their jobs. Cashiers reported working 11-hour days; slot attendants earn $6 per hour plus tips (which have been nonexistent); and some workers cried after seeing their paychecks”
The letter went on to say that “Caesars opted to have its properties reassessed factoring in declining revenues – an option not afforded to independent homeowners – forcing Atlantic City to retroactively pay Caesars $27 million in refunds for a lower assessment between 2009 and 2011.”
State Representative Carlo Basile said he disagreed with No Eastie Casino’s assertions and welcomed Suffolk Downs’ plan to bring much needed jobs to the area.
“This is just another step in the process to show how committed Suffolk Downs is to bringing thousands of jobs to East Boston,” said Basile.