REVERE — Connecticut casino giant Mohegan Sun would pay the City of Revere $33 million upfront, as well as annual payments of at least $25 million to $30 million under a deal announced today for a gambling resort at the Suffolk Downs racetrack.
The deal is expected to go before Revere voters for a referendum vote in about 60 days.
“Through this partnership, Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs will create jobs, enhance our local and state economy, and generate much needed revenue,” Mayor Daniel Rizzo said in a statement.
Mohegan Sun wants to build a $1 billion gambling resort on about 42 acres in Revere owned by Suffolk Downs, which the casino operator would lease. Plans call for about 4,000 slot machines, 100 table games, and a poker room.
“This agreement formalizes the strong partnership we’ve quickly established with Revere, and lays out the many ways the city and its residents will benefit from Mohegan Sun Massachusetts,” said Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.
The proposal is the second try to build a casino on racetrack property, after original casino plans by Suffolk Downs failed in a split decision at the ballot box. Revere approved those plans on Nov. 5, but East Boston voters rejected them. That same day, Mohegan Sun lost a casino referendum in Palmer, a rural town in western Massachusetts.
Immediately after the votes, Suffolk Downs officials began speaking with Rizzo about building a casino only on the Revere side of the city line that passes through the racetrack’s 163-acre property.
Track officials struck a deal in late November for Mohegan Sun to lease its land for a casino.
Under the new arrangement, Suffolk Downs would be the casino’s landlord, not the owner. The new arrangement does not legally guarantee the future of thoroughbred racing at the track, though track owners say they continue to keep racing.
Casino opponents who led the fight against a Suffolk Downs casino in East Boston promised to continue their battle.
“There’s no way moving the casino a few feet removes East Boston from the impact,” said Celeste Myers, a leader of the anti-casino group, No Eastie Casino. She said the group is looking at all available options to fight the new plan.
Meanwhile, casino opponents in Revere are organizing a campaign to defeat the proposal at the coming referendum, said Myers. “We’ve heard from dozens and dozens of folks in Revere,” she said. “They plan to fight it, and we plan to support them.”
Mohegan Sun’s former backers in Palmer, who blame the casino operator for its narrow referendum loss, may join casino opponents in Revere, according to a statement from the group Palmer Businesses for a Palmer Casino. The group accuses Mohegan Sun of orchestrating its Nov. 5 defeat through “a deliberate pattern of delay and mismanagement,” so the casino operator could pursue the more lucrative opportunity in Greater Boston.
Under the original Suffolk Downs casino proposal, the city of Boston stood to gain at least $32 million a year from a Suffolk Downs casino. But that deal died when Suffolk Downs lost its referendum in Eastie.
The new Mohegan Sun casino proposal will be carefully drawn so that Boston is not a host community for the project, and therefore would not be permitted to vote on the plan.
Boston can negotiate for compensation from Mohegan Sun as a “surrounding community,” as defined by the state casino law, but the city has little leverage and cannot block the proposal.
If Boston cannot reach a deal with Mohegan Sun, an arbiter could decide how the city should be compensated for the effects of a casino on its border.
Boston is in a similar situation with Wynn Resorts, which has proposed a casino in Everett just outside that city’s border with Boston.
To allow the new Revere proposal to go forward, the state gambling commission last week waived one of its year-end deadlines to permit a new vote in Revere. The rest of the deadlines remain the same: Mohegan Sun must submit all other documents and plans for its project by Dec. 31.
If the new plans are approved by the voters, Mohegan Sun will compete with Wynn for the state’s most lucrative gambling license. The Wynn plan overwhelming won a referendum in June.
The commission expects to award the license in May.