You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting new entries very often of late – it’s a good thing I suppose because I’m so busy on other projects. One was the long-awaited launch of the new Mega Millions website, under development for several months. My role as new content manager for that site is just one of many hats I now wear, and on a personal note, I am enjoying every minute of all of it. This is such a great industry, with so many great people! I do hope to settle in on a regular weekly blog routine after I return from the Breeders’ Cup, and also take some time to update the pages on this site.
I was at Suffolk Downs yesterday helping out CANTER with its annual Showcase to find homes for retiring race horses, and even on a quiet Sunday on the backstretch there was plenty of buzz about the news that track management asked Caesars Entertainment to withdraw as a partner in its casino bid. There are many questions right now, but several answers should be forthcoming beginning later this week.
It is interesting that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission found something that raised red flags during its background investigation on Caesars, a company licensed in several jurisdictions around the globe. Suffolk Downs was notified on Friday afternoon, and took immediate steps to replace the company as a minority partner in its tooth-and-nails battle for the sole Boston-area casino license. The Commission will release a redacted version of its background report in the coming days, perhaps on Wednesday. A suitability hearing for the Suffolk bid is scheduled for October 29.
By that time, a new partner should be in place – there should be no shortage of potential suitors. Perhaps the most notable prospect is Hard Rock, which was bidding for a casino in West Springfield until voters nixed that project. Rush Street Gaming is another – that company has already passed the Commission’s suitability test but no longer has an active project in the state.
Still, the timing is rough – voters on November 5 will have their say on a Suffolk Downs casino, although Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has said it might be best to postpone that vote given the circumstances. There is also some concern that the host community agreements need to be re-evaluated or even re-written with a new partner. And polls indicate that the vote will be very close – perhaps nothing like the overwhelming approval nearby Everett residents gave to the Wynn project. The last thing Suffolk needed was an eleventh-hour disruption, especially after months, even years, of touting Caesars as a world-class partner.
So what a year or so ago seemed a slam-dunk for Suffolk Downs has turned into a spectacle no one had ever imagined. Formidable competition combined with a no-holds-barred Gaming Commission leaves the future very much in doubt. And while the state’s racetracks (all two of them at the moment) stand to receive a share of casino revenues no matter who wins the license, it is by no means certain that either Plainridge or Suffolk will remain as live racing facilities should either lose their bids. And while that would be a sad end, maybe instead the tracks would actually do something original to encourage the revitalization of horse racing without the crutch of a casino on the premises. Hey, a person can dream, right?