When Kerry Abrams of Kinship Florist on Revere Street sees the plans for a casino at Suffolk Downs, she sees the potential blossoms of an opportunity.
At an small business forum last Thursday sponsored by Suffolk Downs, Abrams said she is currently a vendor for Suffolk Downs, providing flowers for the track, and figures that a casino could bring her a great deal of additional business.
“For business opportunities in general, for a small business like myself, it’s the opportunity to generate and create a steady flow of business that otherwise wouldn’t be around,” she said. “I know that Suffolk is certainly committed to local vendors. They’ve already shown me that. I really want to learn more about what opportunities there might be in their plan.”
She said she could envision her business expanding to meet the needs of the casino for guest flowers, lobby flower arrangements and decorative flowers for the restaurants.
At the forum, Caesar’s Entertainment Executive John Payne said that while developing the Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans a decade ago, Caesar’s wanted customers to have a New Orleans experience and not just a Caesar’s experience.
Payne and Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle said last week at the forum – held in Eastie’s Courtyard Marriott – that they want to bring the same concept to a casino here.
“We talk about New Orleans because it’s one of the few urban casinos we have,” said Payne. “When we were developing our strategy there in 2000 we realized consumers could play slots and tables anywhere but we weren’t making it memorable unless they can touch and feel other local amenities outside our walls. So we built partnerships there through reward points and its what we want to do here at Suffolk Downs.”
The forum featured local representatives from the Revere and East Boston Chambers of Commerce and it kicked off Suffolk Downs and Caesar’s Entertainment’s business inclusion program and outreach campaign. The plan includes opportunities for local businesses to become on-site vendors, to supply goods, products and services to a Suffolk Downs resort, partner with the resort through Caesars’ Total Rewards customer appreciation program and provide businesses access to the increased number of employed residents in the local community.
“We have to set the standard for gaming by including the local businesses community through partnerships,” said Tuttle. “What we are announcing today are different ways of including local businesses and how we plan to reach out and educate local businesses about these partnerships.”
In New Orleans, Payne said Caesars has spent more than $45 million at 30 different restaurants that entered into a rewards program with the hotel and casino there.
“I’m quite passionate about how we run our casinos differently than other casinos,” said Payne. “Partnerships are so important in urban casinos and if you look at the development of the industry outside of Las Vegas you see that what is happening in urban casinos is an outward facing development and how local amenities can compliment what is going on inside the resort.”
The key to this, Payne explained, is forming partnerships with surrounding businesses so both the community as a whole benefits from more economic stimulation while guests of the casino and resort benefit from not just a casino experience, but a city experience.
“In New Orleans, and in Boston if we are lucky enough to receive a license, is the anchor that already exists and already has great restaurants, great hotels and great museums—these are the draw and the reasons why people go to places like New Orleans or come here to Boston,” said Payne. “What we do is form partnerships with local hotels, local restaurants, local museums so customers don’t only spend time at the resort or casino but out in the city exploring.”
Payne and Tuttle argue that local businesses will benefit from Caesars Total Rewards program, which will allow over 45 million members to earn and redeem rewards credit at participating local businesses. Local restaurants will also be invited to partner with the resort as an on-site restaurant, among other opportunities.
“Through the program people will learn about where they have to eat, what music venue they need to attend or what museum they should see in East Boston or Boston to make that experience of being here at a resort at Suffolk Downs better,” said Tuttle.
In addition to the business partnerships, Tuttle and Payne announced that Caesars and Suffolk Downs will be hosting vendor forums to detail the opportunities for local businesses.
“As part of the local business community for 78 years, a primary objective of our development proposal is to invest in the local community and to extend the development beyond the property itself to create jobs and stimulate the local economy,” said Tuttle. “A development of the scale we are proposing will spend approximately $150 million annually on goods and services. Local and regional businesses will be the primary beneficiaries of this spending.”
The first in a series of forums, targeting East Boston, Revere, Chelsea and Winthrop-based businesses, will be held at Suffolk Downs on Wednesday, June 5. Additional forums will be held in the communities around Suffolk Downs.
The forums will provide area businesses with information and guidance regarding their interest in becoming suppliers to the resort and partners in the Total Rewards program. They will include workshops with representatives from Caesars’ sourcing and purchasing staff as well as business partners from other properties in the Caesars network.