The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) will call Suffolk Downs before its board on Thursday during a regularly scheduled meeting to explain how the track intends to proceed with a Revere-only casino project at its property that straddles the Eastie/Revere line.
MGC officials announced on Tuesday that there are enough questions about the Revere-only project that some clarity needs to be offered.
“We have been thinking about this,” said MGC Chairman Steve Crosby. “We read the papers and hear the stories and get the letters. We will ask Suffolk Downs to come in and talk to us on Thursday at our regular meeting and try to understand exactly how they are planning to proceed on this.”
He said he hasn’t read the host community agreements and he hasn’t looked at the referendum ballot question language recently, so he would like to hear from Suffolk how they intend to proceed.
“…We’re going to ask them what they’re thinking,” he said. “The Commission does not yet have an opinion on this yet…We’ll want to hear what their interpretations are of the ballot questions and how they’re coming up with the reading that says this is legit to proceed. Once we hear that we’ll do whatever we do. Maybe we’ll agree, maybe we’ll disagree, maybe we’ll think about it, maybe we’ll do our own legal analysis; I don’t know. The point of [them coming on Thursday] is we do feel there are enough issues here that are genuinely confusing to the public that we would like to see whether we can help get some clarity. In general, elections are very much a local issue. The Legislature makes that clear and is highly respectful of each individual community handling elections the way they want with their applicant. We have said we will intercede if we think the local activities are either impeding our process and our schedule or running the risk of somehow impugning the integrity of the overall process. And, this one clearly raises enough issues that…we need to look into it… We know as little about this as what you do at this point, which is why we’re asking them to come in and talk to us.”
He said they would proceed in the meeting by asking Suffolk a set of pre-determined questions. He said on Monday they hadn’t come up with those questions yet, but one of them would certainly be about the knowledge of a Revere-only Plan B.
“Surely one of them will be the issue of did the host community agreement and the referendum reasonably anticipate the duality, but there probably will be others,” he said.
He said another key part of what they will look at is if Revere does have a claim to hosting a casino given their ‘yes’ vote, and Eastie’s ‘no’ vote.
“Certainly none of us was anticipating a split vote,” Crosby said. “Bottom line is that no community that does not want a casino will have a casino. That applies to East Boston, West Springfield and Foxboro and Holyoke and you name it. It’s a different situation here. Revere said they did want it and so we need to figure out if they have a legitimate claim.”
However, Crosby said the MGC might not be ready to delve into the minutiae of the situation – such as the legal status of the horse track – until they get more basic information about the plan.
“The fundamental intent of the law is that it gives a horse racing entity that wants a gaming license the pre-condition of its getting a license was that it would continue the horse racing,” he said. “I mean that was the intent…How that applies here is anybody’s guess. We don’t even know who the applicant is going to be. Is it going to be the same applicant? Is it going to be the same people who own the racetrack? We just don’t know yet.”
Letters sent to the Commission late last week by Suffolk Downs and Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo triggered the Thursday discussion.
The Suffolk Downs letter details a broad overview of the plan that they hope to proceed with.
Rizzo’s letter discusses the referendum vote and the specific wording of the ballot question in Revere.
“I submit this letter to express Revere’s ongoing, enthusiastic support for the Suffolk Downs project,” he wrote. “Since the evening of November 5th, my administration has been working closely with Suffolk Downs on a plan to locate a resort gaming establishment on the Revere side of the Suffolk Downs property, consistent with the affirmative land use referendum in Revere.”
He reiterated the argument that the referendum was simply a land use question about permitting a gaming establishment.
“In addition, the published summary of the City’s Host Community Agreement, which was printed on every ballot, clearly stated that the Agreement would be re-opened if the casino was developed on the Revere side of the Suffolk Downs property. Finally, Revere’s question was silent with respect to Suffolk Downs’ gaming operator.
“As a result, Suffolk Downs may proceed with a new version of its project without having to ask Revere citizens to approve it a second time,” he continued.
He also indicated he has already started considering what amendments would need to be made to Revere’s Host Community Agreement to accommodate the full project in Revere.
“I respectfully request that you keep the voice of our City’s voters in mind when considering Suffolk Downs’ plans for Revere,” he concluded.
The MGC public meeting will start at 9 a.m. and will be held at the South Boston Convention Center. Suffolk Downs is one item on a very lengthy agenda. The meetings are streamed live via the Internet at www.massgaming.com.