The onus is now on Suffolk Downs to convince the undecided voters in East Boston that the removal of Caesars Entertainment as their casino operator does not change the proposed casino project as a whole.
Ballots have already been printed and a Host Community Agreement has been inked and with a little more than two weeks left to the referendum vote those who are opposed will vote no and those who are in support haven’t seemed to change their mind after Friday’s shakeup.
But it’s the small minority of those undecided or on the fence that Suffolk Downs needs to convince that they are indeed the majority owner and that Caesars was only a four percent partner in the endeavor.
And while Suffolk attempts to do that the other side will most certainly be trying to convince the same group that without Caesars the proposal is null and void.
The timing of the announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time as Suffolk Downs has been on a media blitz to sell the Host Community agreement and engage undecided voters that a casino in Eastie could come with substantial economic benefits.
At a community meeting Monday Suffolk COO Chip Tuttle said everything is as it was prior to Caesars’ departure. The Host Community Agreement is unchanged, the commitments to jobs are still there and a good majority of Caesars commitments will be absorbed by Suffolk Downs’ ownership like the total rewards program.
However, there are still some unknowns that were born once Suffolk Downs and Caesars parted ways. Many Eastie voters, supportive or unsupportive of a casino plan, got to know Caesars and what they could expect from a Suffolk-Caesars partnership if a casino was to move forward here. The two-year road show by design was geared towards selling the Caesars brand and what the company had done for communities in other jurisdictions where they placed a casino.
Eastie voters will have to digest a new casino partner but there’s a chance the new partner might not be found until after the November 5 vote.
In the end those who have thrown their support behind Suffolk Downs and a casino at the racetrack did so long before Caesars was a partner. The same can be said for the other side and a new partner will not convince them a casino is a good thing for Eastie.
There is one saving grace here—Eastie gets to decide on November 5.
If you think the commitments Suffolk has made to the neighborhood through the Host Community Agreement are sound then you will vote yes.
If you think a casino will cause too many negative impacts on the community then you will vote no.
In the end if it has nothing to do with a Caesars marquee, or a Hard Rock or MGM or Parx marquee on the outside of the proposed building.