Table Talk: Neighborhood Moves Ever Closer to Getting a Resort-style Casino

It seems the possibility of a full-scale resort-style casino coming to East Boston is closer to reality than ever before.

Last week the House passed its version of expanded gaming in the state with East Boston’s Representative Carlo Basile joining his colleagues voting in favor of the bill.

“This bill has been a long time in the making,” said Basile, Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Financial Services.

“I am very proud and excited about its passage as I believe it will spur much needed job growth and economic activity throughout the state.”

Basile and his colleague, Senator Anthony Petruccelli, have lobbied in favor of an expanded gaming bill that would potentially transform the historic Suffolk Downs Racetrack into one of three resort casinos while saving thousands of local jobs at the track.

“I applaud the work of Speaker (Robert) DeLeo, Representative Basile and the entire House for the work on this important legislation that will lead to the creation of thousands of jobs in the state,” said Petruccelli. “I look forward to working on the Senate’s version of the bill in the coming weeks.”

Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle said the family of workers and horsemen at the track appreciates the work of the House leadership to pass a bill that, if it becomes law, would give Suffolk Downs the opportunity to compete for a gaming license.

“We believe that our facility, with its 75-year history as a gaming destination and as a long-time partner in the community, is uniquely positioned to help the state maximize the jobs, revenue and tourism benefits of gaming development and to do it in a way that works for our neighboring communities,” said Tuttle.

The bill will create an estimated 15,000 jobs in the Commonwealth while delivering millions of dollars in immediate local aid to cities and towns.

“With people in our Commonwealth hurting, this expanded gaming legislation will bring immediate jobs, local aid and economic growth,” said House Speaker Robert DeLeo, adding “I am extraordinarily proud of the House’s unwavering commitment to jobs and growth. While not a panacea, this bill will stimulate our economy and provide local aid for the cities and towns across Massachusetts.”

The bill is very similar to a compromise gaming bill that Petruccelli submitted back in April.

Like Petruccelli’s bill, the House’s version creates the five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission with the Governor appointing three members, the Attorney General and Treasurer both appointing one. The Governor would designate the commission chairperson according to the bill. After an extensive licensing process, the commission could authorize one casino in each of three designated regions of the Commonwealth.

The bill also clearly defines the eligibility requirements for gaming licensees. For a resort-style casino the licensing fee would be set at $85 million and capital investment requirements would be $500 million.

And like Petruccelli’s bill earlier this year, the House bill includes a ballot referendum by a “host community”. A host community shall mean only the ward in which the gaming establishment is to be located for the purpose of receiving a certified and binding vote on a ballot question at an election.

The bill states that for a racino license the licensing fee would be $25 million and capital investment requirements would be $125 million—up from Petruccelli’s bill offered in April that had investment requirements at $75 million.

Casino revenue would go toward local aid, the state’s stabilization fund, economic development, education, debt reduction, tourism, transportation infrastructure, community mitigation, public health and local capital projects.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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