And They’re NOT Off:Horse Racing, Simulcasting is Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

And They’re NOT Off:Horse Racing, Simulcasting is Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

Live racing and simulcasting have been suspended at Suffolk Downs and all other horse tracks and betting facilities in the state due to the fact that the State Legislature did not act to renew the Simulcast Bill before the end of its formal session at midnight on July 31.

The renewal has been routine for several years.

The news came out of Beacon Hill early Wednesday morning that horseracing and simulcasting had suddenly become illegal in Massachusetts overnight. It seemed like fantasy, but soon the news was solidified.

In order for horse tracks like Suffolk Downs to operate live racing and simulcasting, the annual bill has to be renewed by the House and Senate by July 31. The Legislature did not do that this year.

There were few comments from legislators on the matter, but Suffolk Downs had its placard off Wednesday morning, a placard that usually advertises simulcast betting on Saratoga races for that day.

Later in the morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) put out a letter of direction to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park and Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park.

The letter said that the Commonwealth’s legislation for live racing and simulcasting had expired on July 31 at midnight and no action had been taken to renew or replace it.

“As of today, there is not statutory authorization for live horse racing or simulcasting in the Commonwealth,” read the letter. “Please be advised that until further notice from the Gaming Commission, simulcasting in all forms under any license at your facilities is suspended. Further, live racing at Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park is also suspended until further notice.”

The MGC added the item as an emergency agenda item for its meeting today, Aug. 2, in Springfield.

The news complicated things tremendously for Suffolk Downs, which had planned and proceeded with a weekend of live racing for Aug. 4 and 5. That event is now in great doubt as there is no law allowing live racing in the state.

Reportedly, many of the horses and support personnel had already begun the trek up to Massachusetts from other states for the live races.

Many were left to ask why it had happened without warning.

There were no official comments on Wednesday from the Legislature, but numerous sources near the situation indicated it revolved around a growing rift between the leadership of the House and Senate.

It was believed by those sources that when a very important priority item for the Senate leadership didn’t pass the House – the gender equity bill – then the Senate in turn blocked the action on the renewal of the Simulcasting Bill.

One course of action to fix the matter is to address it during an informal session this week. However, during an informal session, rather than with a roll call vote of everyone, only one objection to any matter by any member can kill it under the rules of the body. That makes restoring the bill even more difficult, especially if there is a political rift between the two houses.

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Horse Racing, Simulcasting Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

Horse Racing, Simulcasting Suspended as Legislature Fails to Act

Live racing and simulcasting has been suspended at Suffolk Downs and all other horse tracks and betting facilities in the state due to the fact that the State Legislature did not act to renew the Simulcast Bill before the end of its formal session at midnight on July 31.

The renewal has been routine for several years.

The news came out of Beacon Hill early Wednesday morning that horseracing and simulcasting had suddenly become illegal in Massachusetts overnight. It seemed like fantasy, but soon the news was solidified.

In order for horse tracks like Suffolk Downs to operate live racing and simulcasting, the annual bill has to be renewed by the House and Senate by July 31. The Legislature did not do that this year.

There were few comments from legislators on the matter, but Suffolk Downs had its placard off Wednesday morning, a placard that usually advertises simulcast betting on Saratoga races for that day.

Later in the morning, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) put out a letter of direction to Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park and Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park.

The letter said that the Commonwealth’s legislation for live racing and simulcasting had expired on July 31 at midnight and no action had been taken to renew or replace it.

“As of today, there is not statutory authorization for live horse racing or simulcasting in the Commonwealth,” read the letter. “Please be advised that until further notice from the Gaming Commission, simulcasting in all forms under any license at your facilities is suspended. Further, live racing at Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park is also suspended until further notice.”

The MGC added the item as an emergency agenda item for its meeting today, Aug. 2, in Springfield.

The news complicated things tremendously for Suffolk Downs, which had planned and proceeded with a weekend of live racing for Aug. 4 and 5. That event is now in great doubt as there is no law allowing live racing in the state.

Reportedly, many of the horses and support personnel had already begun the trek up to Massachusetts from other states for the live races.

Many were left to ask why it had happened without warning.

There were no official comments on Wednesday from the Legislature, but numerous sources near the situation indicated it revolved around a growing rift between the leadership of the House and Senate.

It was believed by those sources that when a very important priority item for the Senate leadership didn’t pass the House – the gender equity bill – then the Senate in turn blocked the action on the renewal of the Simulcasting Bill.

One course of action to fix the matter is to address it during an informal session this week. However, during an informal session, rather than with a roll call vote of everyone, only one objection to any matter by any member can kill it under the rules of the body. That makes restoring the bill even more difficult, especially if there is a political rift between the two houses.

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Sports 11-05-2015

CHS Roundup

Ieng scores three TDs as CHS football team posts first win with 28-0 romp over So. Boston

The Chelsea High football team posted its first win of the season with a 28-0 shutout of South Boston Friday evening.

“It was a total team effort,” said CHS head coach Jack Halas. “Every member of the team saw the field and contributed.”

Junior captain Nick Ieng turned in a herculean performance, rushing for more than 100 yards and scoring touchdowns on runs of 26 and 45 yards. Nick also returned a kickoff 77 yards for a touchdown, his third kickoff return for a TD this season.

Sophomore David Bui also struck paydirt for the Red Devils, reaching the Southie end zone on a 38 yard jaunt.

The Red Devil defense was immense throughout the contest. “Many guys stepped up to contribute,” noted Halas, who in particular lauded the performances of senior captain Dennys Hernandez and Bui with four tackles apiece; Bryan Rivas with three tackles and an interception; and the duo of Christian Caceres and Jacinto Hernandez with three tackles each.

“I am very happy for the boys to have earned their first win, and to do it in a team fashion is even better,” said Halas.

Halas and his crew were back to work this week, preparing for their next opponent at West Roxbury, whom the Red Devils will face Friday evening at 7:00.

CHS boys soccer team opens tourney play Saturday

The Chelsea High boys soccer team will undertake their annual Journey to the Tourney Saturday evening when coach Mick Milutinovic and his crew host the winner of the Woburn vs. Greater Lowell contest (which was played yesterday [Wednesday] as the Record was going to press) in the first round of the Division 2 North Sectional of the MIAA state soccer tournament. Kick-off time is set for 6:00 under the lights at Chelsea Stadium.

The Red Devils enter the tourney as the top-seeded team in the D-2 North with a sterling 15-1-2 record. Chelsea encountered its lone setback of the year in the season finale Thursday afternoon against Winchester. The Red Devils’ quest for an undefeated season fell short, 4-1, to a strong Winchester squad that sports a 10-3-5 mark (and which is seeded fifth in the D-2 North).

Chelsea took a 1-0 lead with about 10 minutes left to play in the first half when Derilson DePina timed a nice pass from Oscar Murillo to get past the Winchester defense, and then neatly chipped the ball over the Winchester keeper from the 18 yard line.

However, Winchester struck back two minutes later to bring the teams back to level and then took the lead five minutes later for a 2-1 advantage before the half. Both Winchester goals came off corner kicks.

“We lost some of our composure when we took the lead,” said CHS assistant coach Evan Protasowicki. “We did a poor job marking their players on the corner kicks and Winchester took advantage of our mistakes. But that gave us some insight into what we need to work on as we prepare for the tournament.”

If the Red Devils prevail in their first round match, they will host the winner of the Danvers vs. Masconomet contest Monday in the D-2 North quarterfinals.

CHS cross country teams compete in CAC meet

Last Saturday the Chelsea High boys and girls cross country teams traveled to Andover where Greater Lawrence was hosting the Commonwealth Athletic Conference league meet.

In the boys race, the Red Devils’ senior first-year runner Jose Aguiar ran a tremendous race to finish fourth overall in the CAC Upper Division.

“We ran here two and a half weeks ago and in that race Jose was a little too aggressive and suffered in the second half of the race,” said CHS head coach Don Fay. “But today he went out a lot smarter and was able to pick people off during the race. He was sixth with just under a mile to go and passed two more in the latter part of the race.”

Since the top eight finishers are named to the CAC all-star squad, Jose earned a spot on the team. His time was 58 seconds better than his previous race on the same course.

Chelsea’s next four runners across the line finished within 27 seconds of each other: Adriel Cedano was 26th in a time of 19:06; Johnny Gomez was 27th in 19:12; Jansel Claudio was 28th in 19:22; and Diego Estrada was 29th, finishing in 19:33.

The boys finished fifth in the upper division meet. “We really worked hard as a team,” said Fay. “We had a lot of individual personal bests throughout the year. The team should be proud of how they performed this season. There never were any excuses, never any complaining. Just toughness and a great work ethic.”

On the girls’ side, CHS senior captain Wendy Becerra missed repeating as an all-star by five seconds. Wendy finished in 10th in 21:41. (The top eight girls are named all-stars.)

“In the latter part of the race, Wendy usually is picking off anyone near her, but today she seemed a little flat,” said Fay afterwards. “But this doesn’t take away from another great year that she had. Wendy was very dominant and was either first or second in every race but one.”

Finishing right behind Becerra was freshman Jocelyn Poste, who ran a personal best time on the Gr. Lawrence course of 22:21 to finish 12th. Melanie Nguyen was 15th in a PR clocking of 22:40. Freshman Yarid Deris also had a PR and was 24th.

Senior Cynthia Guzman came across in 32nd place overall to finalize the scoring for Chelsea. The Lady Red Devils finished in fourth place, just three points behind third-place Whittier.

“This was a good group of girls that we finished with,” said Fay. “They were hard working and positive and, like the boys, saw a lot of individual improvement. I really liked our Saturday morning long runs. After we finished running between 7-9 miles, we would have our bagels and peanut butter for breakfast.

“I hope everyone continues running indoor and outdoor track and continues to get faster and stronger throughout the year,” added the coach.

Tammi Piermarini, Armando Ayuso dominate at Suffolk Downs

Saturday’s eleven-race card at Suffolk Downs on Breeders’ Cup Day was dominated by jockeys Tammi Piermarini and Armando Ayuso who each notched three victories before an enthusiastic crowd of 10,521 fans on hand for third and final live racing and food truck festival of the year.

Piermarini, the third all-time leading female rider in history, began the day with a 4 ½ length victory aboard Miss Wilby ($2.40) in the $75,000 John Kirby Stakes for Marcus Vitali. She wheeled back to sweep the early double with Dr. Blarney ($2.60) in the $75,000 Norman Hall Stakes. She was back in the winner’s circle following a narrow victory aboard the favored Lillie’s Answer ($4.80), a maiden winner for trainer Christophe Clement.

Ayuso kicked off his tripe with Luckystrikedelcoco ($6.80) on the turf for trainer Derek Ryan. He teamed up again with Ryan to win the eighth race with Red Letter ($7.60) and the tenth race with Dubai Time ($11.80).

The track remains open year round for simulcasting. Parking and admission are always free.

For more information, visit www.suffolkdowns.com

About Suffolk Downs:

Built by 3,000 workers in just 62 days when Massachusetts authorized pari-mutuel wagering in 1935, the historic track has been a showcase for some of the most famous names in Thoroughbred racing history, including Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, John Henry, Cigar and Skip Away.

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Chelsea Praises ‘yes’ Vote in Revere

Chelsea Praises ‘yes’ Vote in Revere

Though no one in Chelsea had a say in the matter on Tuesday, a good many residents and municipal officials in Chelsea breathed a sigh of relief at the overwhelming ‘yes’ vote by Revere residents pertaining to the casino at Suffolk Downs.

While Chelsea has been talking with both potential casino operators – Mohegan Sun in Revere and Wynn in Everett – the City has already inked one of the most lucrative Surrounding Community Agreements in the state with Mohegan Sun. To date, the City is still in negotiations with Wynn and there is some indication that there isn’t an appetite to match Mohegan’s offer.

A ‘no’ vote in Revere on Tuesday would have automatically killed the Mohegan agreement with Chelsea – a potential loss of $2.5 million per year, among other perks.

“I’m thrilled with the significant vote out of Revere and excited about he tremendous potential a resort casino can have for our entire region,” said City Manager Jay Ash. “I believe the Mohegan application to be a superior one, and I continue to be encourage by them in my conversations about the possibilities. There is a strong bond between Mohegan and its host and surrounding communities, and that should mean that their regional approach to their $1.3 billion dollar investment will drive many positive outcomes for places like Chelsea.

“I am also very happy for Mayor Dan Rizzo, who showed tremendous leadership in fighting for the very best for his community,” continued Ash. “He has also been a champion of surrounding communities, so we owe him so much for having the conviction to stand up to so many outside pressures and deliver a huge vote, one both greater in terms of percentage than the last Revere vote and with more ‘yes’ votes than Wynn received in Everett.”

The results showed a huge turnout in Revere for a cold February day where there was only one issue at stake. However, the vote was pretty much exactly the same as the affirmative vote in Revere last November.

For example, there was a 44 percent turnout in both elections, with only a slight variation in the total ballots cast – 11,379 this time and 11,080 last time.

On Tuesday, 63.2 percent (7,195) of Revere voters gave the ok to a casino while 36.7 percent (4,177) disapproved of it.

Chelsea Council President Matt Frank said he was happy to see the vote, but is mixed on his overall support of casinos in the state.

“I’m mixed on whether we should have a casino at all in the region, but if we’re going to have a casino in Greater Boston, I prefer the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs project because I think they have worked well with their surrounding communities and host communities,” he said. “In that scope, I’m happy with Tuesday’s vote.”

State Rep candidate Roy Avellaneda said he also congratulated Revere for its vote.

“I congratulate the city of Revere for approving its casino referendum on Tuesday,” said Avallaneda. “I will support Revere’s efforts to gain a gaming license from the state, and for the Charlestown residents to have the opportunity to redesign Sullivan Square into a gateway to Boston instead of an off-ramp for the Wynn casino in Everett.”

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Council Unanimously Approves Casino Compact

Council Unanimously Approves Casino Compact

The City Council unanimously endorsed a resolution authorizing City Manager Jay Ash to enter into a $2.5 million a year mitigation Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA) with Mohegan Sun at its meeting on Monday night.

Manager Ash and City Council President Matt Frank negotiated the agreement to address public safety and other potential concerns raised should Mohegan Sun win the Region A gaming license it seeks for the building of a $1.4 million resort casino at Suffolk Downs in Revere.

“This is a great package for Chelsea, 2.5 times richer than any other surrounding community agreement anyone has signed in Massachusetts,” said Frank. “It addresses our concerns and allows us to focus on the benefits of having 4,000 jobs and more than a billion dollars of investment at our doorstep,” said Councillor Frank.

Massachusetts law requires casinos to have SCAs with neighboring jurisdictions that may be impacted by casino operations. Casino operators can voluntarily agree to designate a municipality as such, or that municipality can seek designation through a process led by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). In Chelsea’s instance with Mohegan Sun, the parties long ago agreed that Chelsea should be awarded surrounding community status.  Discussions began with Suffolk Downs and culminated with Mohegan Sun agreeing to the $2.5 million a year compact.

Last week, Ash released the details of the agreement.  As many as seven new police officers will be hired and other operations funded with a total of $675,000 to address general patrolling, criminal investigations, vice activities and traffic concerns.  Two 9-1-1 operators, at a cost of approximately $100,000, will be hired to handle the additional call volumes of those police officers and others. The schools will receive $850,000 for day and after-school programming and scholarships. Job training and English classes will benefit with $100,000 each. Youth programming is set to receive $100,000 and cultural activities another $50,000.  Infrastructure improvements will be funded with $425,000, and addiction services will receive $100,000. The agreement includes an escalator clause that will raise payments by the lesser of inflation or 2.5 percent annually.

“The package is substantial and far-reaching,” said Ash. “In addition, we have agreement that at least 200 jobs will go to Chelsea residents and $2.5 million will be spent annually on local businesses. Local businesses will also be able to accept Mohegan Sun rewards cards. We are also going to benefit from improvements made on Revere Beach Parkway, summer jobs and regional planning.”

Ash has been a leading advocate of the casino movement in Massachusetts, which Frank suggests may be a reason why Chelsea is set to receive an amount far in excess of any other SCA to date. Around the state, surrounding communities have been agreeing to compacts that have ranged from $50,000 to $1 million. While Ash has been a champion, some councillors found themselves reluctantly supporting the SCA.

“I may not like the direction the state is going with allowing casinos to operate here, but if they are coming I want to make sure Chelsea gets every benefit possible,” argued Councillor Brian Hatleberg, whose sentiment seemed to speak for several of his colleagues.

State law does not require a vote of the Council to support the SCA, but Ash pledged to do so anyway to make sure City officials were on the same page.

“This is an historic agreement for Chelsea, and I want to make the Council has had a chance to review and endorse it,” Ash said to councillors.

A similar agreement has not been reached with Wynn Resorts, which is proposing a $1.2 billion resort casino on Route 99 in Everett.  Ash and Wynn were at odds early in this month about Chelsea being designated a surrounding community, that despite Chelsea being the same seven-tenths of a mile from both the Revere and Everett sites.  Last week, Wynn did officially recognize Chelsea as a surrounding community and negotiations are said to have begun.

“We’ll see where that one goes.  For tonight, though, we’ve confirmed that Chelsea’s best interests will be protected and advanced with a great package should Mohegan Sun receive the designation.

“The folks at Mohegan Sun have been great to deal with, and our friends at Suffolk Downs have been our friends for 75 years. I’m excited about their partnership and our collaboration, and I do believe that many benefits will accrue to our region as a result of a resort casino being awarded to Revere,” said Ash, who says that he favors the Revere site for the Region A designation.

Not only is the Chelsea/Mohegan Sun compact contingent on the awarding of the Region A license to Mohegan Sun, but Revere voters must approve a Feb. 25 referendum question as a host community of the site.

“I’m very optimistic about the Revere vote because Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo is doing a great job articulating the huge benefits Revere will derive from the Mohegan Sun development.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to inject billions of dollars of economic vitality into Revere and the region.  I support the Revere vote and am fully convinced that their partnership with Mohegan Sun will have a dramatically positive impact on all that Revere can and will accomplish under Mayor Rizzo’s leadership thereafter,” said Ash.

OTHER COMMUNITIES GET AGREEMENTS

Mohegan Sun announced late on Tuesday that it had reached SCAs with seven localities in and around Revere, including Cambridge, Chelsea, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Melrose and Salem.

The casino company has also designated Boston, Saugus and Winthrop as Surrounding Communities, but is still in continued discussions with those communities.

The local impact payments will total $3.75 million among the seven municipalities – with Chelsea getting $2.5 million of that.

The agreements also ensure that small businesses in the communities will have access to millions of dollars in annual spending by the proposed $1.3 billion development and that residents in these communities will be given job opportunities at Mohegan Sun Massachusetts and have access to job training programs and problem gambling services.

“We are pleased to announce these agreements, which represent an important step in our efforts to develop an incredible destination that will benefit the entire region with the creation of new jobs, economic development and tourism opportunities,” said Mitchell Etess, CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority. “Each of these communities have been a great neighbor to Revere and Suffolk Downs, and these agreements illustrate Mohegan Sun Massachusetts’ commitment to work in partnership with our neighboring communities.”

Mohegan Sun Massachusetts expects to spend about $50 million annually on goods and services from businesses located within a 15-mile radius of Revere once the resort is fully operating. Similarly, MSM expects to create 4,000 jobs and has committed to hiring 75 percent of its workforce within the same 15-mile radius.

Also included as part of the agreed-upon terms are strong commitments to regional economic development and benefits – such as the cross marketing of tourist attractions and cultural institutions in these communities, and providing local businesses with access to vendor opportunities and Mohegan Sun’s industry leading players club points program. Mohegan Sun has also agreed to fund approximately $1 million in additional study and design of regional traffic solutions not related to the impacts of the proposed resort. Mohegan Sun also has terms for agreements in principle with Cambridge, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Melrose and Salem, subject to city council approval.

“Our relationships with our surrounding communities is very important, and we appreciate the hard work and thoughtful approach of each of these city leaders to reach these agreements,” said Chip Tuttle, Chief Operating Officer of Suffolk Downs.  “Mohegan Sun Massachusetts will not only preserve the future of Thoroughbred racing at Suffolk Downs, but it will create new economic and tourism opportunities for the entire region.”

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Compromise Keeps Casino Proposal at Revere’s Suffolk Downs Site Alive

Compromise Keeps Casino Proposal at Revere’s Suffolk Downs Site Alive

While many were expecting a finite decision by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) on Tuesday afternoon considering the Revere-only casino, the Commissioners instead surprised everyone by agreeing to a very detailed compromise that will allow the proposal to go forward with a caveat.

The caveat being that Revere must take another vote for the new Mohegan Sun proposal, and that the Commission would give the new proposal a waiver for its Dec. 31 application deadline – a waiver that would only allow them to turn in the results of the vote after the deadline.

Commissioner Jim McHugh came up with the compromise and, at the outset, explained that he would rather have the voters decide the issue rather than the Commissioners, as he believes the new proposal is very different than the previous proposal and needs another public weighing.

“The dichotomy here is letting the voters decide or letting us decide whether this proposal moves forward,” he said.

The McHugh Compromise – which was agreed to in a ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ vote rather than a roll call vote after about one hour of discussion – allows Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs to make the decision about what it wants to do. If it wants to continue on the current course, the matter will come back to the MGC for an ultimate vote as was expected Tuesday.

If the applicant chooses the McHugh Compromise, then a second Revere-only vote would be scheduled for 60 days later – approximately.

Meanwhile, Mohegan Sun – who is the new applicant, with Suffolk Downs being the landlord – would have to proceed with the regular Phase 2 application, without the vote results. They would be required to turn in the application – likely accompanied by a new or amended Host Community Agreement – by Dec. 31. The Commission would begin evaluating the Phase 2 application in January while Revere would prepare for a mid-February referendum vote of the new project. That referendum would likely also contain the details of a new or amended host community agreement.

“If the vote is successful at that time, nothing would change and we would continue on with the evaluation of the applicant,” said McHugh. “If it wasn’t successful, the evaluation would stop and we would be evaluating only one proposal. A successful vote would allow us to proceed with two applicants, stay on schedule and have a license decision made in mid- to late-May.”

McHugh said he believed that his compromise was allowed because it was only making an exception to the regulations and not the law – and also because it was fair.

“We’re making a particular exception to one regulation,” McHugh said, citing the exact regulation (205 CMR 119.01). “We have no power to change the statute. We’re changing our regulations, which we do have the power to change…We are giving them a waiver for one aspect, for certification of a vote for a Revere-only casino…It is fair to everybody – not happy for everybody – but it does seem to be fair to everybody and, ultimately, lets the voters go to the polls and do what the statute provisions.”

MGC Attorney Catherine Blue said she believed that it was proper.

“I think this compares with the way we’ve analyzed similar situations in the past,” she said. “We are being consistent. We are valuing competition.”

Competition was a key point of the McHugh Compromise, in the end. Many of the Commissioners cited the fact that they preferred to continue on with multiple proposals, and perhaps that’s what swayed them to allow the proposal to move forward.

That was stated by Chair Steve Crosby, who listed competition as the number one priority in a list of three reasons why he prefers the McHugh Compromise.

“I think this is a very consistent idea; it’s good,” he said. “In a deeply complex situation, this is about as fair a proposal as a person could have come up with.”

Added Commissioner Gayle Cameron, “We value the competition. We did have one positive vote here and I think this proposal makes sense moving forward.”

Crosby did wonder aloud if the other applicant, Steve Wynn, might cry foul due to the waiver – as he had his successful vote last June and is seemingly ready to submit his full Phase 2 application on time if allowed by the MGC.

“I just want to think about who will feel their ox is being gored,” he said.

Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said he didn’t feel that Wynn had an argument because they entered into the process knowing there would be competition, and Mohegan Sun isn’t exactly a new face on the scene – having gone through the process from the beginning in order to try to open a casino in Palmer.

“Mohegan Sun complied with the deadline of January 15,” he said. “We never made the deadline site specific. It’s not as if someone is parachuting into the middle of this so that some other applicant would say it isn’t fair.”

After approving the McHugh Compromise unanimously, the ball now falls into the court of Suffolk Downs/Mohegan Sun.

Mitchell Etess, CEO of Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority had the following statement after the hearing:: “We look forward to working in cooperation with our host community of Revere on the path the Commission outlined today. Mohegan Sun’s strong brand recognition combined with Suffolk Downs’ more than 75 year history truly makes this a home team project. We are grateful for the strong support of residents, business leaders and elected officials in Revere and throughout the region.  Our resort casino will create thousands of new jobs, new opportunities for small businesses and additional economic development and tourism throughout the region.”

Chip Tuttle, COO of Suffolks Down said, “On behalf of our family of employees and horsemen and women, it is gratifying that the Commission has provided this option to move forward with the City of Revere where we have enjoyed substantial support and our gaming partner and developer Mohegan Sun on its vision for a world-class destination resort on the Revere portion of our property. We look forward to the next steps.”

Meanwhile, another big hearing is scheduled for Friday involving the Wynn proposal. It’s a hearing that could end up making the competition argument moot. Wynn will appear before the Commission to discuss the particulars of the land deal in Everett – a deal that Crosby said last week “involved a possible hidden ownership and/or other difficult issues which could threaten the public trust in this process, and which make the Commission’s deliberations particularly important and sensitive.”

Crosby has recused himself from that vote due to a prior business relationship with one of the official landowners. If the MGC votes not to allow the Wynn proposal to move forward on the identified land, it could end up negating that project and leaving the Mohegan Sun/Suffolk Downs proposal all alone – pending an affirmative second vote.

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Going to the MGC: Suffolk Called to Gaming Commission to Explain New Revere Project

Going to the MGC: Suffolk Called to Gaming Commission to Explain New Revere Project

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) will call Suffolk Downs before its board today, Nov. 21, 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.

Chelsea is an official surrounding community in both the Suffolk project in Revere and the Wynn Resorts project proposed in Everett.

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, along with elaborate media reports both locally and in Boston.

Meanwhile, MGC officials also said this week that Wynn Resorts would likely have its suitability hearing scheduled in the first or second week in December.

MGC Spokesperson Elaine Driscoll told the Record that Wynn would likely be called for the hearing during that time frame. Wynn Resorts has proposed a resort casino in Everett and, at this point, is simply waiting for a determination on its suitability (which is a term used for the background check). If he is deemed suitable, he will have until Dec. 31 to turn in his Phase II application.

It will be the last application turned in before a final awarding of the license is made in April.

The December hearing is beyond the MGC’s original internal deadline to have all of the hearings completed before Nov. 20. That date was set earlier this fall, but proved to be tricky to pull off.

“These are very extensive and so we’re addressing them on a rolling basis,” said Driscoll. “As soon as they’re complete, we schedule a hearing. With resort casinos – with the magnitude of them – what works best for us is on a rolling basis.”

The MGC almost met its goal, holding two of the hearings and making determinations on them prior to Nov. 20.

Suffolk Downs had its hearing on Oct. 29 and had a ruling by Nov. 1.

Crossroads/Foxwoods in Milford had its suitability hearing on Nov. 13 and had a ruling by Nov. 15. That project, however, was voted down Tuesday and will no longer be in the running for a license.

If Wynn were approved by the second or third week of December, it would give the company about two weeks to meet the Dec. 31 deadline.

The MGC Public meeting today 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.

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Ash Will Throw Support Behind Revere Casino

In the topsy-turvy casino landscape over the last few weeks, City Manager Jay Ash took pause to figure out if supporting expanded gaming was such a good idea.

Following two unsuccessful votes for casino proposals in East Boston and Palmer last week, he said he questioned his support.

That has faded away this week as Ash has pledged his support to a controversial and last-minute plan by Suffolk Downs to scrap the long-time casino plan at the track and propose a scaled-down version of it on only the Revere side of the property.

The hurdles and headaches for such a bargain are tremendous, but track officials and some local officials are fully behind that.

Now, add Ash to the list of supporters.

“I am now convinced Revere has a viable option and I’m in support of it and of Mayor Rizzo’s efforts,” Ash said on Tuesday. “Last week, we took a step back and analyzed the idea of expanded gaming. After looking at it, I’m convinced the foundations of my support should continue, all the positives are still there and there were extenuating circumstances with the East Boston vote – that being Caesars dropped out at the last minute. To the extent that I have any weight, I throwing it behind the Revere proposal.”

That decision came after a late-afternoon meeting at Revere City Hall on Tuesday, a meeting that Rizzo had called for and in which he explained the ins and outs of the 11th hour bid.

Ash said Rizzo had reached out to several local leaders and wanted to talk to all of them about continuing to support Suffolk’s plan.

ALWAYS THE PLAN?

The plan by Suffolk brings up more hurdles and obstacles than in a steeplechase race, including the possibility of closing or moving the horse track and the clarification as to whether the vote in Revere actually qualifies.

The new Revere-only plan began to hit the public square before the final voting numbers had even been reported, with most people hearing and reacting in a confused manner as it was always predominately understood that the casino development was a joint effort and required a joint ‘yes’ vote.

However, Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle said this week that he has always indicated that there could be an alternative if there were a ‘no’ vote in Eastie – though that alternative was never discussed in depth as they were planning for victory.

“The people were voting on a land use question, not on a specific project,” said Tuttle. “We’re very disappointed in the results in East Boston. I can think of three or four things we should have done better. Clearly, our 11th hour separation from Caesars didn’t help. We are trying to respect the vote in East Boston, which clearly killed the prior project. That project can’t move forward in East Boston. By the same token, we have a ‘yes’ in Revere by a wider margin than the loss in East Boston and a workforce here that deserves every opportunity from us.

“That may be frustrating to some; I get it,” he continued. “It was a possibility we were asked about on five or six occasions. Every time I tried to be consistent with that answer and I said that practically it would be very, very difficult to move ahead in one and not the other. Technically, I always said it was possible. We didn’t want to talk about that. We were planning for success.”

SUPPORT VARIES

The range of support for the plan varies amongst elected officials in the area.

While Ash is in support – along with Rizzo – incoming Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has advocated for the license to go to Milford.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein has pledged her support fully behind the new plan, while House Speaker Bob DeLeo has remained somewhat neutral – saying he will leave it all up to the MGC.

Finally, State Sen. Anthony Petruccelli of East Boston – one of the drafters of the Gaming Law – said he is fully against the plan. He has also said that Suffolk Downs is trying to pit Revere and Eastie against one another, something he said he resents.

Petruccelli represents both communities in the state senate.

UP TO THE GAMING COMMISSION

In the end, everyone agrees that the fate of the last-minute plan at Suffolk will depend upon the MGC.

MGC Chair Steve Crosby has only said so far that he will hear them out, though he has said in published reports that it sounds very difficult. He has also alluded that it would be a long shot.

However, in previous open meetings, such as a meeting on Oct. 29 addressing the Eastie/Revere referendum vote, Crosby alluded that a ‘no’ vote would put an end to the application.

“There will be another public hearing during the evaluation process if the vote is successful,” Crosby said at the hearing. “If it isn’t successful, it’s over. If it is successful there will be another public hearing where we will invite everybody to speak about the pending proposal.”

Said Tuttle, “In the end, all of this is in the Gaming Commission’s hands.”

SEPARATION OF THE TRACK

One of the persistent problems with the new plan is what to do with the horse track.

At one point, the casino was touted as being necessary to save the track. Now, it appears the track is going to have to be separated in some fashion to save the casino.

Just how that will happen is still up in the air.

Tuttle said there is a very good possibility that the track could close, or that it would operate as a separate entity with no common access points. He even said it could possibly be moved to another location. Under the current plan, the barns would certainly have to be moved. Tuttle said it certainly would be off-site, but they have no firm plans yet.

“Our plan was always for an integrated facility with racing and gaming,” he said. “That cannot happen now because of the vote. There has to be separation; there has to be church and state. They can’t be together. We hope to be able to keep the racetrack, but it can’t be part of our gaming development…We’re going to work to try to keep the track open, but the results of the vote in East Boston could make that hard. We don’t know yet (if we’ll close it)…We’ve got 350 people who work here and 400 to 500 in the barn areas and we’re trying to figure out how to preserve their jobs.”

One of two major roadblocks is the fact that the racetrack is considered an amenity to the development, and any amenity located in a city or town triggers the host community process. Eastie cannot be a host community. The track being an amenity worked in Revere’s favor early in the process and helped it be deemed a host community. However, now it appears to be getting in the way of the Revere-only development.

Tuttle said they had no clear answers as to how they would solve that.

“That’s something we’re working on right now,” he said.

Another roadblock lies within the gaming law – a stipulation that requires Suffolk to continue operating as a horse track in order to get a casino license.

“We need to find a way to continue racing, but not as part of the development,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have to race here. It says if you held a [racing] license in 2011 and are awarded a gaming license, you have to maintain that [racing] license. It doesn’t say where you have to race. We’re meeting with the (Horsemen) this week to discuss the new playing field.”

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Casino in Revere Being Considered

Casino in Revere Being Considered

In the wake of a ‘no’ casino vote in East Boston last Tuesday – Suffolk Downs and the City of Revere are preparing to make an 11th hour pitch to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) for a scaled-down casino development located at the barn area entirely in Revere.

The plan by Suffolk brings up more hurdles and obstacles than in a steeplechase race, including the possibility of closing or moving the horse track and the clarification as to whether the vote in Revere actually qualifies.

The new Revere-only plan began to hit the public square before the final voting numbers had even been reported, with most people hearing and reacting in a confused manner as it was always predominately understood that the casino development was a joint effort and required a joint ‘yes’ vote.

However, Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle said this week that he has always indicated that there could be an alternative if there were a ‘no’ vote in Eastie – though that alternative was never discussed in depth as they were planning for victory.

“The people were voting on a land use question, not on a specific project,” said Tuttle. “We’re very disappointed in the results in East Boston. I can think of three or four things we should have done better. Clearly, our 11th hour separation from Caesars didn’t help. We are trying to respect the vote in East Boston, which clearly killed the prior project. That project can’t move forward in East Boston. By the same token, we have a ‘yes’ in Revere by a wider margin than the loss in East Boston and a workforce here that deserves every opportunity from us.

“That may be frustrating to some; I get it,” he continued. “It was a possibility we were asked about on five or six occasions. Every time I tried to be consistent with that answer and I said that practically it would be very, very difficult to move ahead in one and not the other. Technically, I always said it was possible. We were planning for success. .”

Some Support, Some Don’t, Some on the Fence

Mayor Dan Rizzo said this week he is fully supporting the move to Revere and is in constant communication with Suffolk Down to help them meet the crucial Dec. 31 MGC application deadline.

“I am in constant communication with Suffolk Downs and our lawyers representing the City and their lawyers representing Suffolk Downs feel we do have a case in building a Revere-only casino,” he said. “As a result of that we have mutually agreed to open up the host community agreement to discuss new terms because with it all being in Revere…that would certainly mean a different set of terms with respect to jobs, local investments and a revenue stream.”

He said he has people in City Hall working on it already, and the City has advertised a public hearing this week for an omnibus zoning change to accommodate the Revere-only project. It will be held Dec. 2.

That said, not everyone in Revere’s corner is entirely happy with the course of events – including State Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, who has the unique task of representing both Revere and Eastie.

“While I have seen the media reports of Suffolk Downs seeking other development options, I do not believe there are any at this time,” said Petruccelli. “

House Speaker Bob DeLeo has said in initial reports that the whole plan sounds complicated. This week, though, he released a statement saying he’s putting it in the MGC’s hands.

“The future awarding of gaming licenses is entirely up to the Commission,” he said. “My deep concern, as always, lies with the creation and retention of jobs.”

In the Commission’s Hands

In the end, everyone agrees that the fate of the last-minute plan at Suffolk will depend upon the MGC.

MGC Chair Steve Crosby has only said so far that he will hear them out, though he has said in published reports that it sounds very difficult. He has also alluded that it would be a long shot.

However, in previous open meetings, such as a meeting on Oct. 29 addressing the Eastie/Revere referendum vote, Crosby alluded that a ‘no’ vote would put an end to the application.

“There will be another public hearing during the evaluation process if the vote is successful,” Crosby said at the hearing. “If it isn’t successful, it’s over. If it is successful there will be another public hearing where we will invite everybody to speak about the pending proposal.”

Said Tuttle, “In the end, all of this is in the Gaming Commission’s hands.”

Separation of Track and Casino

One of the persistent problems with the new plan is what to do with the horse track.

At one point, the casino was touted as being necessary to save the track. Now, it appears the track is going to have to be separated in some fashion to save the casino.

Just how that will happen is still up in the air.

Tuttle said there is a very good possibility that the track could close, or that it would operate as a separate entity with no common access points. He even said it could possibly be moved to another location. Under the current plan, the barns would certainly have to be moved. Tuttle said it certainly would be off-site, but they have no firm plans yet.

“Our plan was always for an integrated facility with racing and gaming,” he said. “That cannot happen now because of the vote. There has to be separation; there has to be church and state. They can’t be together. We hope to be able to keep the racetrack, but it can’t be part of our gaming development…We’re going to work to try to keep the track open, but the results of the vote in East Boston could make that hard. We don’t know yet (if we’ll close it)…We’ve got 350 people who work here and 400 to 500 in the barn areas and we’re trying to figure out how to preserve their jobs.”

One of two major roadblocks is the fact that the racetrack is considered an amenity to the development, and any amenity located in a city or town triggers the host community process. Eastie cannot be a host community. The track being an amenity worked in Revere’s favor early in the process and helped it be deemed a host community. However, now it appears to be getting in the way of the Revere-only development.

Tuttle said they had no clear answers as to how they would solve that.

“That’s something we’re working on right now,” he said.

Another roadblock lies within the gaming law – a stipulation that requires Suffolk to continue operating as a horse track in order to get a casino license.

“We need to find a way to continue racing, but not as part of the development,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have to race here. It says if you held a [racing] license in 2011 and are awarded a gaming license, you have to maintain that [racing] license. It doesn’t say where you have to race. We’re meeting with the (Horsemen) this week to discuss the new playing field.”

Staying With the Agreement and the Vote

There are more complications than can be reported in one story, but one thing that is on everyone’s mind is whether or not the Revere vote can stand given it’s wording and it’s mentioning of the current Host Community Agreement – which will be totally different.

Rizzo and Tuttle believe that the vote is still valid, even with a new project in a new area.

They argue that the vote was about a land use question and not about any specific project or design.

The wording of the question refers to the property at Suffolk Downs “off of Winthrop Avenue,” but doesn’t mention Revere or East Boston.

Critics argue that the question referred to the existing host community agreement – which included radically different commitments and also the continuation of horseracing.

They also point to the fact that the address and zip code for Suffolk Downs’s property is that of East Boston – not Revere.

Tuttle and Rizzo believe that they can negotiate an amended host community agreement without blowing up the one they have.

“We don’t think we have to have a new agreement,” Tuttle said. “Our HCA with Revere anticipates future development or expansion on the Revere side of the property…It anticipates that if and when there were expansion on the Revere property, we can open it up again. There should and will be substantially more in benefits for Revere under the new proposal. We think all that is possible under the current vote and our HCA.”

Neither would discuss what kinds of numbers were being talked about or whether the agreement would mimic Boston’s lucrative agreement.

Many Questions But a Willing Partner

Rizzo told the Journal this week that the City is doing whatever needs to be done to help Suffolk meet its critical deadline of Dec. 31.

“Obviously time is not our friend in this and we’re working hand in hand with Suffolk to make sure we meet all the deadlines required by the Gaming Commission,” he said.

Tuttle said they are ready to work with Revere if allowed by the state.

“It still has to be a first-class destination that attracts visitors from outside the area and is of a level of quality that is befitting of the cultural hub of the region,” he said. “We also need to engineer and design a project that works on the Revere parcel and that the City will welcome as a neighbor.”

Sidebar –

One Man in Two Communities

State Sen. Anthony Petruccelli has the unique position of being between two communities this week, as he represents Revere and East Boston – where a rift is growing over the 11th hour Revere-only casino bid. This week, he said in a statement that he doesn’t appreciate the divisiveness coming out of Suffolk Downs on the issue. The statement reads as follows:

“On Tuesday, Nov. 5, I joined many voters in East Boston and Revere in voting ‘yes’ on whether or not there should be a resort casino development at Suffolk Downs. I did so because I believe the benefits of such a development far outweigh the impacts. The rules of engagement for this process were crystal clear. Voters in both communities needed to pass their own ballot question in order for the proposal to advance to the Gaming Commission. That did not happen.

As you know, I represent both the neighborhood of East Boston and the City of Revere so this is not the most desirable position for me to be in politically. However, the results are unambiguous. The proposed resort casino at Suffolk Downs is dead.

While I have seen the media reports of Suffolk Downs seeking other development options, I do not believe there are any at this time. The most recent proposal had to my knowledge every inch of development to be built in East Boston, and Revere was still a host community. If you remember, a year ago there was a question as to whether or not Revere was a host community, I publicly advocated very strongly that Revere needed to be considered a host community. If somehow Suffolk Downs were allowed to offer a new development proposal, I would expect that both communities would again be host communities. What’s fair is fair.

Furthermore, I am troubled by the rhetoric offered by the ownership of Suffolk Downs during the last week, as they are pitting two communities that I represent and love very much against each other.

I will not stand for that.

I am hopeful that the Gaming Commission will see the logic and the facts of this proposal. That is, if Suffolk Downs has a new proposal, there needs to be a new process. Anything less would bring into question the integrity of the Massachusetts Gaming Law and the whole process.”

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Ash: Maybe It’s Time to Reassess Gaming in Massachusetts?

Ash: Maybe It’s Time to Reassess Gaming in Massachusetts?

The East Boston ‘no’ vote on the Suffolk Downs casino project on Tuesday – along with a similar ‘no’ vote on a gaming project in Palmer – has resonated in a big way with City Manager Jay Ash.

Ash has been a staunch gaming advocate and has testified several times before the state legislature about the need for expanded gaming. However, on Wednesday, his thoughts were along the lines of reassessing the state’s desire for casino gaming.

Following Tuesday night’s shocking vote, he said he is going to re-examine his position on gaming.

“It’s clear the people of East Boston and other communities around the state have concerns about having gaming in their backyards,” he said. “I am going to re-examine what my position is. I take very seriously what voters have to say and it’s time for me and others to take heed of what voters are saying and examine whether we should be considering gaming in general.

“I think the East Boston results were greatly influenced by what happened with Caesars, so I’m not jumping off the gaming bandwagon yet at this point, but it’s giving me cause to take a step back and look and see what people are saying and what their concerns are and how I should go forward,” he continued.

Ash isn’t alone in that mindset, however, as politicians in East Boston have moved in the last day to embrace the anti-casino crowd and have said they respect their voice and hear their concerns.

As far as Suffolk Downs goes, Ash said not much is lost on his end pertaining to negotiations for a Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA).

“We were not close on an SCA with Suffolk Downs,” he said. “We were far apart on certain pieces I thought were important to Chelsea.”

Those issues included mitigation for public safety and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the project by Wynn Resorts in Everett does continue on and Chelsea is also a surrounding community for that project as well.

Ash said he is in early negotiations with Wynn and will continue with those negotiations. They are planning to meet later this month on traffic concerns.

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