East Boston residents Tuesday night dealt a blow to any dreams of building a $1 billion resort casino at Suffolk Downs, with 56 percent of voters rejecting the referendum. But Revere voters approved the plan.
With East Boston’s rejection of Suffolk Downs' resort casino proposal, the attention now shifts to Revere, who overwhelmingly voted in favor of the casino. This adds an interesting twist: 52 acres of Suffolk Downs property is in Revere, and the track’s chief operating officer, Chip Tuttle, says the company would "reassess" its plans and consider proposing a casino on that piece of land.
“We’re going to look at all our options," Tuttle said. "We have a big parcel here. We’ve heard a very positive affirmation from Revere. We’re going to look at all our options.”
Favorable votes were needed in both East Boston and Revere before the track could formally apply to the state Gaming Commission for a license. If Suffolk Downs and the city of Revere are to go ahead with plans to build in Revere, they will be on a tight deadline: Final proposals are due Dec. 31. Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo seems undaunted, saying he is prepared to talk about moving the entire project to his city.
“I have already had some preliminary conversations with Suffolk Downs about reshaping the project, putting it in Revere only, and I plan on working with the gaming commission in any way that I can to support the affirmative land use vote that was taken by our residents in the city today,” Rizzo said.
While the majority of East Boston voters took the not-in-my-backyard opposition to the casino, the fact that Revere’s portion of Suffolk Downs is, well, in East Boston’s backyard, is undeniable, something that pro-casino supporter Rich Petty says will only cause problems for East Boston should a Revere proposal be in the running for a casino license.
“Maybe they move it to Revere only, and East Boston gets nothing but traffic and Revere gets plenty of money," Petty said. "Good move, East Boston.“
What else is in question is the fate of the racetrack. Suffolk Downs’ Chip Tuttle says the 78-year old sporting landmark hasn’t been profitable in several years. Now that a casino is out of the picture, this puts Suffolk Downs—and all its employees, in a precarious position.