Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sen. Petruccelli's letter to gaming commission on the "Revere" plan

Just in to 
The two-page letter from state Senator Anthony Petruccelli to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Suffolk Downs' Revere-only proposal. Related story can be found here.

November 20, 2013

Stephen Crosby, Chairman
Massachusetts Gaming Commission
84 State Street, Suite 720
Boston, MA 02109

Dear Chairman Crosby and Commissioners:

On behalf of my constituents of the First Suffolk and Middlesex District, I write today to express my increasing concern over recent efforts by Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, LLC (“Sterling Suffolk”) to proceed with the resort casino development originally proposed for the 161-acre land parcel at Suffolk Downs in East Boston (the “Project”).  In a letter to the Commission, dated November 13, 2013, Sterling Suffolk expressed their intentions to move forward with the Project despite the unsuccessful ballot question in East Boston.  Indeed, Sterling Suffolk has proposed to modify the Project’s development plan so that it fits entirely within the 52-acre Revere parcel at Suffolk Downs.  To do so, in my opinion, undermines the spirit and intent of the Commonwealth’s Expanded Gaming Act of 2011 (the “Gaming Act”). 

When the State Legislature crafted and passed the Gaming Act, my colleagues and I carefully drafted provisions pertaining to host community agreements and the conduct of an election.  M.G.L. c.23K, §15 specifically requires an applicant, as a prerequisite to filing an RFA-2 application (“Phase 2”), to receive a certified and binding vote on a ballot question at an election in the host community.  (See also 205 CMR 124.00.)  Also, where a proposed gaming establishment is situated in more than one community, as is the case with the Project:

The applicant shall execute an agreement with each host community, or a joint agreement with both communities, and receive a certified and binding vote on a ballot question at an election held in each host community in favor of such a license.  M.G.L. c.23K, § 15(13).

Taken together, the intent of these provisions is clear.  Only favorable referendum results in both host communities allow the applicant to proceed to Phase 2.  That did not happen with Sterling Suffolk’s Project.  Because one host community voted in the negative, the Project proposed for Suffolk Downs is dead.  If Sterling Suffolk wishes to proceed with an alternative development plan on the Revere parcel, then under the terms of the Gaming Act:

[They] shall not submit a new request to the governing body within 180 days of the last election; and provided further, that a new request shall be accompanied by an agreement between the applicant and host community signed after the previous election.  M.G.L. c.23K, § 15(13). 

However, in their November 13th letter to the Commission, Sterling Suffolk asserted that, regardless of the November 5th election results, Revere’s host community agreement remains in effect and need only be modified to reflect a shift to Suffolk Down’s Revere parcel.  Sterling Suffolk does not interpret the referendums to have been votes about the Project (and host community agreements) itself; rather they view the referendums as votes on whether Suffolk Down could be developed for a casino at all. 

While it is true that Revere and East Boston voted on land use, it is also unquestionable that the host community agreements were essential to the voting process.  All ballots required, and did in fact contain, “a fair, concise summary of the host community agreement.”  205 CMR 124.05.  My colleagues and I in the Legislature recognized that it was imperative to ensure that Massachusetts residents in an impacted community have adequate notice of, and be well-informed about, any casino proposal prior to voting.  Accordingly, the Gaming Act specifically requires a host community agreement to be made public, and that host and surrounding communities have ample opportunity to weigh the potential impacts on local businesses, traffic, jobs, as well as public safety. 

Furthermore, it is false to argue that an alternative development plan on the Revere parcel is anything but a new proposal, which would require a new host community agreement and referendum under the provisions of M.G.L. c.23K, § 15(13).  Any proposed project development on the Revere parcel would undoubtedly look very different from that which voters reviewed prior to November 5th.  Buildings and parking lots would need to be relocated, not to mention the racetrack and stables.  Such changes materially alter the Project as it was initially proposed.  In effect, this undermine the Gaming Act’s requirements for transparency and notice that ensure members of the impacted communities, including myself, have adequate time to weigh the merits of a proposal. 

I understand why Sterling Suffolk wishes to pursue an alternative development plan on the Revere parcel.  As an organization, they’ve invested a great deal of time, effort, and money to see the Suffolk Downs Project to fruition.  I, too, was disappointed that the Project failed to receive the two affirmative referendum results needed to proceed to Phase 2.  I believed, and still believe, that a casino has great potential to rejuvenate communities within my District.  Nevertheless, the Commission cannot allow a gaming applicant to circumvent the process required by the Gaming Act merely because the results were disappointing. 

I appreciate the opportunity to state my position to the Commission, and request the Commission’s clarification on the status of Sterling Suffolk’s application.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at my office. 


State Senator
First Suffolk and Middlesex District