The Boston area, which I have called home my entire adult life, is already among the world’s great tourist destinations. The city attracts some 12 million visitors a year to partake in its vibrant offerings that range from historic and cultural attractions, world class dining and entertainment, internationally recognized educational institutions and a robust business community. These guests inject billions of dollars into the economy, making tourism one of the biggest drivers of economic activity in New England.
These impressive figures beg an interesting question: Why does Boston need a casino? This may seem an unlikely question from a gaming executive who hopes to operate a casino here. But, the real question we have contemplated is: What kind of casino does Boston need — and how do we ensure such a development best benefits the local community and economy?
The answer lies in our proposal to develop a city-integrated casino at the historic Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston. We have an opportunity — and an obligation — to develop a casino that complements all this city already offers to residents and guests and contemplates how to maximize economic activity for surrounding businesses and residents.
My partners and I are steadfast in our belief that this is the best option for Boston. But we couldn’t — and wouldn’t — pursue this sort of development if it weren’t also a good business. We are so confident about this model here because decades of research show us that casino players love live music, regional and fine dining, plays and musicals, street festivals, food fairs, sporting events and the visual arts. Boston and its surrounding areas abound with these attractions, giving me full confidence that we can successfully attract new visitors to this market and introduce them to so much of what makes Boston special.
The defining feature of this city-integrated casino is seamless integration with a location’s existing business community and attractions. In the city-integrated model, the casino serves a hub with its spokes radiating to established restaurants, shops, hotels and recreation offerings in the larger metropolitan area. It is outward-oriented and is distinct from the integrated destination resort model, yet captures many of that model’s benefits.
The manifestation of this model here has been a critical element of our discussions with our host communities. In this regard, our interests are aligned. By creating a city-integrated resort that showcases Boston and New England, we create an opportunity to drive unprecedented economic impacts directly to the cities as well as to local businesses and institutions.
Our project will require thousands of construction workers and thousands more permanent employees. The vast majority of these employees will be hired locally, be members of one of several unions and be eligible to receive health and retirement benefits. Additionally, we will spend some $150 million a year with local and regional vendors and service providers to operate the resort.
This city-integrated model is proven in its ability to increase local employment and incomes – both onsite and in the surrounding communities. To dismiss the jobs and economic future an integrated city resort in Boston will create is simplistic and short sighted. In addition to some of the finest hospitality professionals I have ever met, I am privileged to count among my colleagues some of the world’s most skilled data scientists, marketers, engineers, security professionals and tradespeople.
We put a great deal of emphasis on how we reward, train and develop our team. We create growth opportunities for individuals and businesses for people with all kinds of skills and from many different backgrounds and present them with wide-ranging paths for career growth.
The pioneering and principal example of a city-integrated resort is our resort in New Orleans, which has successfully helped to grow the local tourism industry considerably. It has recently been successfully replicated at two new properties in Ohio.
Our New Orleans property offers limited hotel rooms and restaurant offerings in a city replete with them. Since opening, Harrah’s New Orleans has directly spent more than $95 million with dozens of local “partner” hotels and in excess of $45 million with scores of local restaurants and attractions over the past 10 years. This doesn’t count millions more spent in the local economy directly by our guests.
The model has proven replicable. Since opening in the last year, our two new urban resorts in Ohio are driving similar impacts in Cleveland and Cincinnati. In its first year of operation, Horseshoe Cleveland attracted more than 5 million guests and spent $3 million on local hotels and restaurants. Hotel occupancy in the city increased some 17 percentage points from the previous year.
In Boston, we hope to develop a world-class resort that delights our guests, but also leverages what already exists here. We will take this proven city-integrated model and make it work for residents, for visitors and for local businesses and cultural institutions. We already have a landmark partnership with the Citi Center for the Arts and are in ongoing discussions with many other restaurants, attractions and suppliers. I am fully confident that the local economy and our own business will duly benefit should we be fortunate enough to earn a license.