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Complex Suffolk Downs casino deal still being written

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, unveiled his proposed casino and hotel project in East Boston, Wednesday, March 27 2013. Wendy Maeda/Globe staff/Globe Staff

So where is the Suffolk Downs casino deal with Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s administration?

Nearly a month ago, the two sides finally agreed on how much money a resort casino at the track would pay to its host city. For Boston, according to several accounts, the deal will be the most lucrative casino agreement in the state. But getting the details of the complicated deal on paper has proven tricky.

“We continue to be in negotiations,” Menino’s spokesperson Dot Joyce said by email Wednesday. “A formal proposal was given to Suffolk Downs that we would assume will trigger a counter proposal and the work will continue, but at this point our proposal is on the table and we are awaiting a response.”


Eight of 11 original casino applicants have reached deals with their host communities. Suffolk Downs is one of three still negotiating, though time is not yet a major factor.

The gambling commission set a Dec. 31 deadline for resort casino projects to complete their applications. That would include submitting certified voting results showing that the project has won the endorsement of the community in a referendum. State law requires at least a 60-day campaign period before any casino referendum, and the clock cannot start ticking until the deal is signed.

Still, in theory, negotiations for Suffolk Downs – as well as for the Mohegan Sun project in Palmer and the Foxwoods project in Milford — could continue well into October before running up against a hard deadline.

While Menino’s administration continues to negotiate with Suffolk Downs, it continues to spar with Wynn Resorts.

Menino has suggested that some of Wynn’s planned Everett casino development may be in Boston, which would give Boston far more rights as a host community under the law, including the right to kill the project and neatly eliminate a top competitor to Suffolk Downs.


The argument has raged in icy letters exchanged between the two sides, in a high-stakes dispute over the $1.3 billion development.

The administration kicked things off with a July 11 letter to one of Wynn’s local consultants, in which the mayor’s Host Community Advisory Committee asked for studies on the project, while provocatively noting “Boston would appear to be a host community to the proposed Wynn resort.”

The administration has suggested the odd fall of the city line, which darts across the Mystic River into the edge of the former Monsanto chemical site where Wynn intends to build, could make Boston a host community.

One of Wynn’s local representatives, Stephen P. Tocco, president and chief executive of ML Strategies, fired back in a July 19 letter: “To be clear, the City of Everett and only the City of Everett is the host community for the proposed Wynn resort. Any other conclusion would be inconsistent with the Massachusetts Gaming Act…”

Tocco’s letter includes the definition of a “gaming establishment” and “host community” copied straight from the 2011 state casino law, “for your information and reference,” he wrote, perhaps in case Boston’s lawyers don’t have access to law books or the internet.

If there was anything conciliatory in the letter, it was Tocco’s admission that Boston might qualify as a “surrounding community” under the state casino law, which would give Boston the right to negotiate compensation with Wynn.

But if host communities are the spot-lit stars of the state’s casino production, surrounding communities are the backup dancers, powerless to kill projects by refusing to negotiate or by asking for the moon. Failed negotiations will be settled in arbitration.


In its response to Tocco, the city re-demanded a host of consulting studies and building plans, including traffic forecasts for Sullivan Square, a major point of concern for Boston.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark