The former owners of the Suffolk Downs racetrack first went to federal court to argue they were wronged when rival Wynn Resorts won the Greater Boston casino license.
Now, a year after that suit was dismissed, they are pursuing similar arguments in state court, with a lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court last week.
It’s obviously too late to wrestle back the casino license. The old horse track at the East Boston-Revere border has been sold for a massive redevelopment, while Nevada-based Wynn opened its Encore Boston Harbor casino and hotel in Everett last year after investing $2.6 billion there and hiring thousands.
But Sterling Suffolk Racecourse wants something else: money. The partnership claims it suffered more than $1 billion in damages by losing out on the casino competition, and it wants to be compensated.
US District Judge Patti Saris dismissed Sterling Suffolk’s federal lawsuit a year ago, saying the group did not present an adequate case to support its claims of racketeering activity. (Sterling Suffolk is appealing that decision.)
Saris left the door open, though, for the group to pursue certain claims in state court.
That’s exactly what Sterling Suffolk did on Nov. 16 when it filed a lawsuit against Wynn Resorts and FBT Everett Realty LLC, the previous owner of the Wynn casino site.
Sterling Suffolk claims Wynn and a few top executives violated a state law against unfair and deceptive acts and practices, in large part by withholding information from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that could have disqualified Wynn from holding a casino license.
Sterling Suffolk also claims Wynn’s actions to protect its casino bid interfered improperly with Sterling Suffolk’s business relationship with casino operator Mohegan Sun, which had plans to pay at least $35 million a year to use Suffolk Downs.
Representatives for Sterling Suffolk declined to comment about the new lawsuit, as did a spokesman for Wynn.
Sterling Suffolk’s state lawsuit contains many of the same allegations spelled out in its federal suit. At the heart of the argument, Sterling Suffolk says Wynn did not come clean to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission about several problems that should have disqualified Wynn from winning the license. The gaming commission eventually picked Wynn over Sterling Suffolk in 2014, essentially dooming the Suffolk Downs horse track.
Chief among the issues raised by Sterling Suffolk are the criminal records of three people with ties to FBT Everett Realty. Sterling Suffolk, in its suit, also cites problematic business partners with Wynn’s operations in the Asian gambling hub of Macau.
In addition, the suit cites the sexual misconduct allegations against former Wynn chief executive Steve Wynn. Those allegations came to light long after the gaming commission’s crucial vote. Steve Wynn has steadfastly denied he engaged in any nonconsensual activities with his accusers.
Wynn Resorts eventually paid a $35 million fine to the state to resolve concerns about the sexual misconduct claims after a state investigation into the issue.
Wynn’s Everett casino, like the others in the region, has struggled this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Mohegan Sun has long since looked elsewhere for expansion opportunities beyond its Connecticut home base. Sterling Suffolk still runs a simulcasting operation at Suffolk Downs.
The track, the last thoroughbred course in the state, hosted its final race in 2019. Richard Fields, a partner in Sterling Suffolk, hasn’t given up on the dream of a revival, and has recently joined with businessman Armand Janjigian to propose a new track off Interstate 84 in Sturbridge.