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Suffolk Downs files formal casino plan with BRA

Revere officials OK deal between city, racetrack

The owners of the Suffolk Downs racetrack have filed formal plans to build a $1 billion gambling resort on the East Boston property, kicking off its development review process under the procasino administration of Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

In a document released Tuesday by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Suffolk Downs proposes to build a sprawling resort that would include up to 250,000 square feet of gaming space, two luxury hotels, meeting and conference space, retail stores, and as many as 17 restaurants.

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By filing the paperwork now, Suffolk Downs begins its review before a new mayor takes office in Boston. Some of the candidates for mayor do not support a casino at the racetrack, while Menino has remained an ardent proponent.

However, Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, said the track is filing now to show that it intends to work with Boston officials in building the resort, not to get the review done before Menino leaves. “The gaming law and the gaming commission require a developer to demonstrate that you’re going to build what you say you’re going to build,” Tuttle said. “What better way to do that than to begin the permitting process.”

Also Tuesday, the Revere City Council voted unanimously, 11 to 0, to support a host community agreement signed last week between the city and racetrack.

The agreement would pay Revere a percentage of gross gaming revenues collected at the facility. At a minimum, payments would range from $4.2 million to $9 million during the first five years of the 15-year pact. But Revere officials believe the annual payments will be about $15 million annually, a figure based on the casino generating $1 billion in revenues.

Mayor Dan Rizzo said Revere will work with Boston to set a date for a special election for residents to decide whether they want a casino located at the track. It will probably be held Oct. 29 or Nov. 5 , Rizzo said.

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Last week, the track inked a host community agreement with Menino that would guarantee Boston an annual payment of at least $32 million if a casino is developed at Suffolk Downs. The deal, which must be approved by East Boston voters, also guarantees the creation of 4,000 jobs and a $33.4 million upfront payment to East Boston.

It is unclear whether Suffolk Downs will push to get its development approvals before Menino leaves office. That review, conducted by the BRA, will concern the precise details of the development plan, including the size and architecture of the buildings.

Mayoral candidates Bill Walczak and Charles Clemons have opposed a casino at Suffolk Downs, while Daniel F. Conley has pushed for more discussion about the development of the property.

The development review process will unfold concurrently with Suffolk Downs’s more immediate fight to win the only state gambling license to be awarded in the Boston region. Others seeking that license include casino developer Steve Wynn, who wants to build a resort along the Mystic River in Everett, and Foxwoods Massachusetts, which is proposing to develop a casino in Milford. The state’s gambling commission is expected to choose the winning proposal early next year.

In recent weeks, Wynn and Everett officials have openly accused Menino of unfairly obstructing the Everett proposal by seeking to give Boston more influence in the review process. Representatives of Wynn and Menino are expected to discuss the dispute Wednesday at a meeting of the gambling commission.

Kathy McCabe of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Casey Ross can be reached at cross@globe.com.
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