SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

December 2, 2011

TUTTLE TALKS CASINOS

Alliance raises concerns about Suffolk Downs casino traffic

BEVERLY — Even as Salem resident Chip Tuttle touted the economic benefits of a proposed $1 billion resort casino at Suffolk Downs, where he is chief operating officer, he acknowledged yesterday that it is no jackpot for him to get to and from work in East Boston.

"I joke the Big Dig stopped at the airport," Tuttle told a gathering of the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development, a group of business leaders and local officials that advocates for projects and policies important to the region's economy.

"If there is indeed a casino, what does that mean for us?" asked Patricia Meservey, president of Salem State University, who led the discussion.

Tuttle's message was that road improvements will be vital to the success of a casino, if one is built at the 76-year-old racetrack. Casinos tend to affect the afternoon commute more than the morning one, he said.

Past traffic studies of 13 intersections in the vicinity of the track show that most are already at a failing level, Tuttle said.

"We realize there is a lot of work to do in that area," he said. "It is daunting, though."

Local leaders jammed a conference room at the Cummings Center yesterday to hear Tuttle talk about Suffolk Downs' desire to corral one of three casino licenses created by the recent passage of expanded gaming legislation.

If Suffolk Downs wins the casino license, it plans to invest $1 billion to create a destination resort that would be competitive with those in Connecticut, which already rakes in $1 billion in revenue from Massachusetts players, Tuttle said.

It would create thousands of jobs, said Tuttle, who has worked for Suffolk Downs for 20 years.

A casino plan at the 163-acre Suffolk Downs site would come with road improvements, he promised.

"We are committed to doing that," he said, though he was short on specifics about how already congested routes 1, 1A, 16 and 60 could be improved.

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