In October 2013, just weeks before East Boston voters headed to the polls to decide on whether or not to allow casino gaming at Suffolk Downs Racetrack, Suffolk Downs ownership dropped their gaming partner Caesars Entertainment.
The news was a public relations nightmare for Suffolk Downs less than three weeks ahead of the vote as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was poised to deem Suffolk Downs’ gaming partner ‘unsuitable’.
At the time Suffolk Downs said there were several issues that were raised by the Commission about Caesars that would have most likely made them unsuitable for a gaming license under the state’s very strict vetting process. These included a case stemming out of Las Vegas where a big time gambler or ‘whale’ accused Caesars’’ employees of feeding him booze and pills during an epic losing streak that cost the gambler over $100 million. There was another issue with Caesars partnering with a hotel development in Vegas where one of the developers may have had loose ties to the Russian Mob.
The cash-strapped Caesars’ finances and debt were also called into question by the Mass Gaming Commission.
Suffolk Downs ownership dumped Caesars, who had a four percent stake in a casino at Suffolk, after it was revealed they were most likely going to be deemed unsuitable for a gaming license after an investigation by the commission.
Voters that November rejected the referendum on gaming in Eastie and many argued it had a lot to do with the Caesars debacle.
However, that didn’t stop the gambling giant from filing a lawsuit against Mass Gaming Commissioner Stephen Crosby. In their suit, Caesars argued that Crosby was biased during the process and was paving the way for Wynn Everett to get the license. Wynn eventually beat out Mohegan Sun in Revere for the license. Mohegan replaced Caesars as Suffolk Downs’ gaming partner and the entire project was moved to the Revere side of the racetrack after the referendum was defeated in Eastie.
“The allegations say that Crosby urged Wynn to compete for the license and to remain an applicant at one point when Wynn was poised to withdraw in exasperation with the proceedings,” according to court documents.
Federal Court of Appeals Judge David H. Souter last week threw out Caesars suit against Crosby. Judge Souter wrote in his decision that the Mass Gaming Commission, including Crosby, was able to make “highly discretionary” decisions “in response to an application to license activity carrying substantial risks of commercial and social harm.”
Before being dropped by Suffolk Downs, Caesars signed a Host Community Agreement that includes $5 million spent on goods and services in Eastie per year, a $10 million (up to $20 million) annual payment to the neighborhood as well as road improvements and support of other community programs. Many still wonder if Caesars was found suitable voters would have passed the referendum in Eastie two years ago.