East Boston’s Suffolk Downs racetrack may be getting a new casino and two hotels if a proposed plan is approved by voters

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has announced a deal that would result in the development of a $1 billion resort casino at the site of the Suffolk Downs racetrack. The host community agreement between the race track and the city of Boston will have the race track pay $33.4 million in payments to start, and is expected to generate more than $50 million in annual revenue for the city.

Good Deal for Boston

Menino touted the deal as being the best one for the Eastern Massachusetts region, one of three regions slated to receive a single casino license from the state. Menino said that this casino “has more revenue, more guaranteed jobs, and more protection than any other agreement in the region.”

According to information released when the deal was announced, there would be significant benefits for the local economy should the casino be built. The development of the casino would generate at least 2,500 construction jobs, while 4,000 permanent jobs would be created within the casino itself. In addition, developers would spend about $45 million to upgrade the transportation infrastructure in the casino’s East Boston neighborhood.

Partnering with Caesars

The proposed casino would be a partnership between Suffolk Downs and international casino developer Caesars Entertainment. The complex would include not only a casino, but would integrate the current horse racing facilities and include two new hotels. The resort would be placed on a 163-acre site near Logan International Airport.

While the deal sounds promising, there are several obstacles that stand between where things stand now and the Suffolk Downs casino ultimately being built. First, the Boston City Council must schedule a referendum in which voters will need to approve the casino plan.

Even that referendum will come with some controversy, as there are differing opinions on who should get to vote in it. Mayer Menino has favored a plan in which only East Boston would vote, as that is the neighborhood that will be most impacted by the casino. Others favor allowing all of Boston to vote. Some have even suggested a hybrid plan, in which the entire city must approve the casino, as would East Boston itself – essentially giving the neighborhood a veto over the process.

That vote looks promising for the casino developers, but there are no guarantees that they’ll win. Casino opponents are already mobilizing, with groups like No Eastie Casino planning to work hard to point out potential negative effects of the casino: traffic problems, a loss of business for local small businesses, and the social dangers of gambling.

With the casino located so close to Revere, developers will also have to reach a host agreement with that city as well. Suffolk Downs says that they are in the final stages of reaching such an agreement.

Even if all parties approve the plan, there’s still a good chance that the casino will never be built. There’s only one license available for casinos in Eastern Massachusetts, and there are at least three plans on the table. That includes a plan by Steve Wynn to build a casino in Everett, which has already been approved by voters there. Meanwhile, Foxwoods has proposed building a casino in Milford.