The owners of Suffolk Downs ponied up $400,000 last Friday and marched the check over to the offices of the Gaming Commission where it was left with officials there.
Thus began the real opening salient in what is expected to be a long and sophisticated application process that will end sometime next year.
Winthrop and Chelsea are designated surrounding town and city respectively according to the expanded gambling legislation passed last year. As such, Winthrop and Chelsea will likely benefit from a casino opening at Suffolk Downs, and to that end Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash has been meeting with Suffolk Downs officials off and on for the past 5 years to make certain the track will take care of a shopping cart list he is providing to them.
Bernice MacIntyre, president of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, said she was pleased to see the process moving forward.
“I’m sure like everybody else that’s involved, it’s just good to see the process finally getting started,” said MacIntyre. “To see how this plays out over the next number of months is going to be interesting.”
MacIntyre added that State Gaming Commission officials are slated to speak at the next Chamber of Commerce meeting. “I know there’ll be many questions and answers around this topic from the members of the Chamber and its board of directors who will be in attendance at the breakfast,” said MacIntyre.
Winthrop officials have been discussing the possibilities as well. The Winthrop Town Council Casino Committee was set to meet with residents and members of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce to discuss the impact and potential benefits for the town.
Surrounding communities to Suffolk Downs are considered places that will be directly impacted by the creation of a huge development at Suffolk Downs. To that end, it was the wisdom of the legislature to properly indemnify Chelsea and Winthrop for their troubles although it is up to leaders from those two communities to negotiate a package intended to improve traffic, reduce crime, increase scholarships for local students, et cetera.
The $400,000 fee handed over last week, which is non-refundable, is the certification, of sorts, for the track’s letter of intent to seek a casino license. The check was brought to the Commission’s offices in Boston by Suffolk Down’s President Chip Tuttle.
Richard Fields, the owner of the track, said he was pleased, delighted really, to get the ball rolling on the application process.
“We want to create a $1 billion first class destination casino and race track facility. For 77 years, Suffolk Downs has been a wonderful racing venue. This will continue and a casino will come to be. We will set the standard for gaming development in Massachusetts,” Fields said.
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo was delighted by the news that the Gaming Commission had accepted the $400,000 from Suffolk Downs. Revere is a host city along with Boston. Mayor Thomas Menino has long been a strong supporter of a casino at Suffolk Downs.
“I am pleased this project seems to finally be coming together on all fronts. Revere welcomes the casino, the jobs, the development, the renewal of the track itself and horseracing. And when the casino is up and running, Revere will benefit from a stream of income which is of great importance for the future economic viability of the city,” Rizzo added.
Menino believes in the development as a major jobs and capital investment effort and as a new and important source of income for Massachusetts cities and towns, and especially Boston.
The total amount for the application when the commission is ready to accept full applications is expected to be in the near to $2 million range – which would include the initial $400,000.
The Commission will be vetting all principals, checking all development plans, approving mitigation plans for host cities and plans for surrounding city compensation as well as approving highway and transportation issues, social issues and the plethora of things connected with this type of development.