SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 12, 2013

Casino vendors flock to Salem

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — Judging by the size of the crowd, a lot of North Shore businesses are wagering that Caesars Resort at Suffolk Downs is going to land one of the state’s three casino licenses.

A banker, a restaurant owner and a women’s clothing wholesaler were among the hundreds of business owners and representatives who attended vendor forums yesterday afternoon and evening at the Hawthorne Hotel.

So many businesses responded to invitations from the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development and local chambers of commerce that a second session had to be scheduled.

“There’s so much interest in the opportunity that might be there,” said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce. “Based on the calls I got, it’s both on the construction side and the service side.”

Suffolk Downs and Caesars Entertainment hope to open a $1 billion casino at the East Boston/Revere racetrack that would provide 4,000 jobs and purchase $150 million annually in supplies and services from regional businesses.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Tim St. Peter, director of food service sales and marketing for Kennerson Associates, a prospective vendor from Beverly.

The casino partners put on something of a floor show yesterday with a model of the proposed resort casino in the hotel lobby and a PowerPoint presentation in the main ballroom.

The resort would have two hotels, two casinos and 4,000 slot machines.

The opportunities appear limitless.

The resort will need vendors for food, beverages, equipment, machinery, gaming supplies, furniture, operating supplies, retail stores, engineering, construction and much more.

“I would like to open a boutique,” said Lynne Black of Peabody, president of LRB & Associates, which specializes in contemporary women’s clothing.

“We would like an opportunity to bid on their services,” said Bobby Buonopane of STK Networks of Peabody, a voice, data and Internet company.

“Obviously, we would love to ... open a branch,” said Elma Mandzo, branch manager of the People’s United Bank on Canal Street in Salem.

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs and a Salem resident, brought the crowd up to date on the timeline for a new casino.

They hope for referendum votes Nov. 5 in Revere and East Boston and expect a decision on the casino licenses next spring.

With months to go before an area casino becomes a reality, there is a lot of time for speculating and dreaming.

George Carey, the owner of Finz restaurant on Pickering Wharf in Salem, said he would love to open a restaurant at the new casino.

“They’re close to the water; we’re a good North Shore vendor,” he said. “It would be a sure bet.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.