Connecticut gambling giant Mohegan Sun has agreed to join a Suffolk Downs casino bid in Revere, filling a hole created last month when Suffolk Downs dropped Caesars Entertainment from the gambling venture.
Officials for Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun settled the terms of a deal Tuesday, after intense negotiations, according to two people with knowledge of the agreement who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Barring some unexpected setback, the deal will be formalized and signed Wednesday morning and then publicly announced.
The new partners came together as each was seeking a second chance to win a Massachusetts resort casino license.
On Nov. 5, voters in Palmer narrowly rejected a $1 billion Mohegan Sun casino proposal, after the company had spent several years pitching its plans and trying to build support. A recount on Tuesday confirmed the project’s defeat.
Suffolk Downs was similarly spurned by voters it had romanced for years: East Boston on Nov. 5 said no to the track’s $1 billion gambling resort proposal. Voters in Revere, however, endorsed the project, and Suffolk Downs officials are now trying to save their bid by shifting the entire project within Revere city limits. The city line passes through the roughly 163-acre Suffolk Downs property.
The prospects for saving the bid are unclear. It is still an open question whether Revere’s Nov. 5 vote legally qualifies as an endorsement of a substantially revised, Revere-only project. The state gambling commission — and then perhaps a court — will decide the matter.
Mohegan Sun brings a well-known name and familiarity with the New England gambling market, and, critically, the stamp of approval from the gambling commission. The commission has already deemed Mohegan a suitable bidder, after reviewing the results of a lengthy background check into the company.
It was the background check process that broke up Suffolk Downs’ long partnership with Caesars. The track dropped Caesars in October over concerns that the Las Vegas gambling giant would fail the background check.
State investigators had raised red flags over several items, including a licensing deal with a hotel chain owned in part by a businessman allegedly tied to Russian mobsters. Coming just three weeks before the referendum, the sudden divorce from Caesars may have turned the East Boston electorate against the project.
Suffolk Downs is required to sign a suitable new partner before a Dec. 31 state deadline for casino license applicants to complete bids. There was probably not enough time before the deadline for a new outside company to complete the background investigation, which limited potential Suffolk Downs partners to operators that unsuccessfully sought licenses elsewhere in Massachusetts.
Mohegan Sun would appear to have solid financial backing in its earlier partnership with $12 billion New York investment group Brigade Capital Management. Mohegan Sun announced the Brigade partnership in January in support of its Palmer casino plan.
If the commission allows Suffolk Downs to continue its bid, the new partnership would compete with a Wynn Resorts proposal on the Mystic River waterfront in Everett.
On Nov. 19, Milford voters defeated another rival proposal for the Greater Boston resort license. The Milford project had been backed by another giant Connecticut tribal casino, Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Suffolk Downs officials had also spoken with Rush Street Gaming, which has also passed the state background check. Rush Street had proposed a slots parlor in Millbury, but withdrew because of a lack of public support.
Suffolk Downs officials also discussed a deal with Hard Rock International, which lost a casino referendum in West Springfield in September. The state background investigation into Hard Rock was nearly done when the company lost its vote.
A Mohegan Sun spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.
Mark Arsenault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.