BOSTON (AP) — The Suffolk Downs ownership group said late Friday that it dropped partner Caesars Entertainment from its bid to build a $1 billion resort casino at the racetrack, weeks ahead of a public vote on the proposal.
After gambling regulators briefed Suffolk Downs on their investigation into the proposal, racetrack executive Chip Tuttle wrote to Caesars, asking that the casino withdraw from their joint application.
Caesars said it agreed to walk away from the proposal but criticized the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for setting what it described as unreasonable standards for prospective developers.
"The commission is attempting to set standards of suitability that are arbitrary, unreasonable and inconsistent with those that exist in every other gaming jurisdiction," spokesman Stephen Cohen said.
Messages seeking comment were left after hours for the commission. Its investigation into the Suffolk Downs proposal and the role of Caesars, one of the gambling industry's largest companies, has not been made public.
But Suffolk Downs is confident that the track, which straddles the East Boston neighborhood and the town of Revere, will still be deemed suitable for licensing, Tuttle said in a statement.
The state's 2011 gambling law allows for a resort casino in eastern Massachusetts. The Suffolk Downs proposal with Caesars, one of three offered for the region, called for a casino, two hotels, restaurants and horse racing on the 163-acre site near Logan Airport.
The track announced a deal in late August with the city of Boston on details of the proposal. It called for $33.4 million in upfront payments and estimated $52 million in annual revenue going to the city if the casino is built. The agreement also promised at least 2,500 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs. A deal also was reached with Revere that would provide an estimated $15 million in annual revenue to the city.
Such agreements with host cities are required by the gambling law and must then be approved by local voters before developers can seek licenses from the gambling commission. Residents of the East Boston neighborhood will vote on the proposal Nov. 5.
Opponents contend the casino would have a devastating effect on the tight-knit neighborhood, take business from local establishments and increase traffic.
The project is competing for the sole casino license in greater Boston with a Wynn Resorts proposal on the Mystic River waterfront in Everett and a Foxwoods project in Milford.
Everett City Councilor Mike McLaughlin released the following statement:
As I hear the news out of Suffolk Downs tonight, I would just like to add a comment on the issue. First it was Vornado that had to back out and now Caesars. I ask the question when will enough be enough with this group. I feel this is exactly the reason Massachusetts needs and should select a single, successful and stable owner-operator with a long history of success like Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts.