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Your Move, Mayor Menino Tells Suffolk Downs

Story by: Boston Herald


Mayor Thomas M. Menino has turned up the heat on Suffolk Downs, pressuring the East Boston racetrack developers to sign a casino deal — even as rivals threaten to leave the Hub out of the running in its bid to host a gambling palace, the Herald has learned.

The move comes as Suffolk Downs remains one of just two casino hopefuls statewide that haven’t struck so-called “host city” agreements required of bidders.

“We put a proposal in front of Suffolk Downs and we’re awaiting their response,” Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce told the Herald last night. “It’s now in Suffolk Downs’ hands to sign the agreement which will move this process forward.”

Talks between the city and Suffolk Downs and its gaming partner, Caesars, have plodded along for months as the two sides have haggled — at times intensely — over the city’s haul from the proposed ?$1 billion casino.

Revere has already struck a deal with Suffolk Downs for its share of the gaming windfall, while Everett signed a pact that will see that city reap $25 million a year from a $1.4 billion casino proposed by Las Vegas titan Steve Wynn.

Foxwoods, which is hoping to build a casino in Milford that would challenge Wynn and Suffolk Downs for the sole Boston region license, formally entered into negotiations with town officials last night.

Meanwhile, casino developers in Springfield, West Springfield and Palmer have all struck required deals with local officials.

Joyce wouldn’t comment on the terms of the proposed agreement with Suffolk Downs, but Menino has repeatedly pledged it would be the richest in the state.

Asked why it’s taken so long, Joyce said: “We’re the biggest city. There’s many consultants that need to be enlisted to make sure Boston gets the best deal. If and when Suffolk Downs receives the state gaming commission’s nod, then obviously Boston wants to make sure it has the best deal possible.”

Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle struck a conciliatory note with City Hall, saying, “We continue to have productive conversations with city officials and look forward to continuing our work with the mayor and his team.”

While waiting for the Suffolk Downs agreement, Menino has also fired off letters to Wynn seeking to open talks. In one recent missive, Menino said Boston should be considered a “host community” — not a surrounding community — because roads for the Everett casino include Boston land.

Joyce said access roads, land and waterfront areas of the Wynn plans include Boston property that require the Las Vegas billionaire to cut a deal with Boston. Wynn officials have rejected the claim, saying in a letter to the city that the 32-acre parcel is “entirely within the city of Everett.”

In another development, Caesars has re-assigned Harrah’s Las Vegas president Rick Mazer to the East Coast to direct the gaming giant’s Suffolk Downs project and oversee Atlantic City and Philadelphia operations, according to published reports.

Jordan Graham contributed to this report.