Mohegan Sun, the Connecticut gambling giant that lost a casino referendum in Palmer earlier this month, has emerged as a leading contender to join a possible Suffolk Downs casino bid in Revere, said Mayor Dan Rizzo of Revere.
“I know they are having conversations with Mohegan Sun,” Rizzo said Monday. “I certainly think Mohegan is in the hunt.”
Another person familiar with the racetrack confirmed there have been active, ongoing negotiations between Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun, including talks that lasted through the past weekend. Still another person with knowledge of the negotiations said an agreement could be announced as early as Tuesday.
Suffolk Downs leaders had little to say Monday about their intentions.
“As we have said before, we have received strong interest in potential partnerships from a number of top-class gaming companies,” Suffolk Downs chief operating officer Chip Tuttle said. “We are aiming to enter an agreement with a new gaming partner soon.”
A partnership with Mohegan Sun, which lost its referendum in Palmer by 93 votes, would make sense for Suffolk Downs for several reasons. In addition to a well-known name and familiarity with the New England gambling market, Mohegan Sun has already passed a lengthy Massachusetts background check and has been declared suitable to bid by the state gambling commission.
Suffolk Downs must sign a suitable new partner before a Dec. 31 state deadline for casino license applicants to complete bids. There is probably not enough time before the deadline for a new outside company to complete the background investigation, limiting potential Suffolk Downs partners to operators that have unsuccessfully sought licenses elsewhere in Massachusetts.
Mohegan Sun also would appear to have solid financial backing in its partnership with $12 billion New York investment group Brigade Capital Management. Mohegan Sun announced the Brigade partnership last January in support of its Palmer casino plan.
A Mohegan Sun spokesman could not be reached Monday.
Finding a suitable new casino operator before the year-end deadline is not the only hurdle Suffolk Downs must clear in order to remain in the hunt for the sole Greater Boston resort casino license.
The Suffolk Downs racetrack property sits on the East Boston-Revere city line. East Boston voters rejected the track’s plan Nov. 5, the same day Revere voters approved it.
Suffolk Downs officials are trying to get around the defeat by shifting the project entirely into Revere. The state gambling commission has not yet decided if the Revere referendum vote on Nov. 5 constitutes a viable endorsement of Suffolk Downs’ new, Revere-only concept.
If Suffolk Downs is able to continue, it would compete with a Wynn Resorts proposal on the Mystic River waterfront in Everett. On Nov. 19, Milford voters defeated another rival proposal for the Greater Boston resort license. The Milford project had been backed by Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Suffolk Downs needs a new casino partner to replace Caesars Entertainment, which the track dropped from the East Boston venture in October over concerns Caesars would fail its background check.
Suffolk Downs officials have also spoken with Rush Street Gaming, which has also passed the state background check. Those talks have appeared to cool recently. Rush Street had proposed a slot parlor in Millbury, but withdrew due to a lack of public support.
Suffolk Downs officials have also spoken to Hard Rock International, which in September lost a casino referendum in West Springfield. The state background investigation into Hard Rock was nearly done when the company lost its vote.
Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com.