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October 31, 2013

Suffolk Downs gets OK to pursue casino bid

BOSTON (AP) — The owners of Suffolk Downs say they’re pleased with the decision by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to allow them to move ahead with their bid for one of three casino licenses.

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, said yesterday that the commission’s favorable finding was critical to the project’s future.

“We look forward to our ballot questions and the next phase as we advance our plans for a world-class resort at our historic racetrack,” Tuttle said.

The decision is a boost for the 78-year-old track, which straddles the East Boston neighborhood and Revere and hopes to compete for the sole Eastern Massachusetts resort casino license.

It also comes a day after track officials told gambling regulators that it is in discussions with several potential casino operators but may not have one in place before host community votes scheduled for next week.

The search for a new operator began when Suffolk Downs cut ties with Caesars Entertainment after being briefed on a background check conducted by commission investigators.

Charles Baker III, secretary for Suffolk Downs said Tuesday he could not promise a partner would be in place by Tuesday, when votes are scheduled in East Boston and Revere on community agreements negotiated by Suffolk Downs.

Baker said a new operator would be in place by Dec. 31, the deadline for final casino applications, and that any new operator must agree to honor the host agreements.

The commission’s background check of Caesars pointed out the company’s now-ended relationship with a New York hotel company subsidiary, an executive’s previous work in online gambling, and Caesars’ now-settled dispute with a high-roller over millions in gambling debts. The panel also cited Caesars’ nearly $24 billion debt.

Caesars said it disagreed with the findings but agreed to withdraw at the request of Suffolk Downs.

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