Betting that a Las Vegas-style resort casino proposed for Suffolk Downs will be a winner, the Revere City Council voted unanimously, 11-0, last week to support a host agreement that would allow the $1 billion development to be built at the horse track on the East Boston line.
Councilors cited the potential for millions of dollars in new revenues — which Mayor Dan Rizzo estimated could reach $15 million annually — along with new job opportunities and major improvements promised for state and local roads.
“As the casino goes, so goes Revere,” Rizzo said. “We thought this was the best [formula] offered the city, the best chance for a fair deal.”
City councilors agreed.
“The bottom line is dollars,” said Ward 1 Councilor Richard A. Penta. “I’m all in.”
“It’s a solid agreement,” said Councilor at Large Jessica Ann Giannino, the board’s vice president. “It’s written very well. It’s up to all of us to figure out the pros and cons.”
Along with annual financial payments based on a progressive revenue sharing formula, the agreement spells out more than $30 million in traffic improvements to state and local roads; a requirement to purchase $7.5 million annually in goods and services from Revere businesses; and $3 million to upgrade Harry Della Russo Stadium and to build a new youth center, according to the agreement.
For the first five years of operation, Suffolk Downs would pay Revere whichever amount is higher: either a minimum payment, starting at $4.2 million in the first year of operation and rising to $9 million by the fifth year, or a percentage of gambling revenues.
The percentage rate would climb from 1 percent in the first year, to 1.25 percent in years two and three, to 1.5 percent in years four and beyond.
The percentage rate would increase to 1.75 percent if revenue were to reach $1.25 billion or more and to 2 percent if revenues total $1.5 billion or more, the agreement states.
Rizzo thinks the casino would eventually generate at least $1 billion annually, once fully operational.
Using a rate of 1.5 percent, Revere could expect to receive $15 million in annual gambling revenues, the mayor said.
But at least one councilor isn’t so sure.
“I do think $1 billion is a little bit far-fetched,” said Councilor at Large Brian Arrigo.
The agreement also states that Suffolk Downs would make “best efforts” to hire Revere residents for the estimated 2,500 construction jobs, and would be required to set aside 10 percent of the estimated 4,000 full-time permanent jobs for Revere residents.
“It will give our residents unprecedented opportunity for employment,” Rizzo, who negotiated the deal over the last several months, told councilors at a public presentation of the agreement last Tuesday.
Chip Tuttle, the chief operating officer at Suffolk Downs, said the council’s unanimous support is “very gratifying for us, because we’ve worked hard with the city for a long time to ensure that the benefits of our development are shared with the city and its residents.”
The council’s support comes as Suffolk Downs and partner Caesars Entertainment prepare for voter referendums that must pass in both Revere and East Boston if their application for a license for a resort casino is to advance before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Suffolk Downs is one of three applicants vying for the one casino license available for Greater Boston, which the commission is expected to award early next year.
Other $1 billion resorts proposals include one at a former factory site on the Mystic River in Everett by developer Steve Wynn, and another on vacant industrial land off Interstate 495 in Milford by Foxwoods resorts.
Suffolk Downs last week filed plans with the Boston Redevelopment Authority for a 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.
None of the construction would be on the Revere portion of the 161-acre site. About one-third of the land — including a portion of the parking lots and race track and the 25 acres of horse barns — lies in Revere.
Suffolk Downs officials have asked Revere and Boston to hold referendums on Nov. 5, when Boston voters will head to the polls to choose a successor to retiring Mayor Thomas M. Menino, perhaps the casino’s biggest supporter.
Under a host agreement announced last week, Boston would receive at least $32 million annually, increasing to $52 million if the casino generates $1 billion.
Everett Ward 4 Councilor Stephen Reardon, while stating his support for the project, also urged councilors to pay attention to the potential negative impacts of a casino development: increased traffic, crime, and problem gambling.
“This isn’t Disney World,” Reardon said. “This is a casino, this is gambling . . . I’d like to think people are coming to have a good time, but unfortunately, crime, traffic are the norm with something like this.”
Rizzo said the agreement provides solutions to long-standing traffic issues.
Revenues would be directed into the city’s general fund, where they could help fund public safety, among other city services.
“It was very, very important to me . . . that we struck a deal that was obviously fair for the city, but also did not bankrupt Suffolk Downs before they opened their doors . . . I think we’ve done that,” Rizzo said.
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