BOSTON (AP) - A plan to develop a $1 billion resort casino at Suffolk Downs took a key step forward on Tuesday with the unveiling of a long-awaited host community agreement between the thoroughbred race track and Boston officials.
The deal, announced by Mayor Thomas Menino, calls for $33.4 million in upfront payments and estimates $52 million in annual revenue going to the city if the casino is built. The agreement also promises at least 2,500 construction jobs and 4,000 permanent jobs.
The developers would spend $45 million on transportation improvements in the heavily congested East Boston neighborhood, including a traffic flyover on Route 1A and upgrades to nearby MBTA stations.
The agreement "has more revenue, more guaranteed jobs and more protection than any other agreement in the region," Menino said.
The state's 2011 gambling law requires casino developers to negotiate host community agreements, which must then be approved by local voters before developers can seek licenses from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. The law allows for three regional resort casinos, including one in eastern Massachusetts.
Suffolk Downs has partnered with Caesars Entertainment on a proposal that calls for a casino, two hotels, restaurants and horse racing on the 163-acre site near Logan International Airport. The plan is one of three that have been offered for the eastern region.
The Boston City Council must now schedule a referendum and decide whether the vote should be limited to residents of the East Boston neighborhood or be decided by the city as a whole.
Menino again made clear Tuesday that he believes only East Boston should vote because it would be impacted far more than any other neighborhood.
City Council President Stephen Murphy said he expected councilors to limit the referendum to that neighborhood.
Because the track straddles East Boston and Revere, a separate host community agreement must be reached with Revere officials. Suffolk Downs was in the final stages of negotiations with Revere, said the track's principal owner, Joe O'Donnell.
Casino opponents contend it would have a devastating effect on the tight-knit East Boston neighborhood, siphoning off business from local establishments and causing traffic headaches.
Celeste Myers, co-chair of No Eastie Casino, said the volunteer group would work hard to educate voters though it expected to be heavily outspent by Suffolk Downs and casino supporters.
"What we do have is passion," Myers said. "We have people willing to do what the paid staffers aren't willing to do."
In June, Everett voters overwhelmingly approved a host community agreement that calls on Las Vegas casino operator Steve Wynn to make more than $25 million in annual payments to that city if a casino is built along the Mystic River.
Because of the proximity of the site to Boston, Menino has questioned whether Wynn might be required to negotiate a host community agreement with his administration, potentially giving the mayor a chance to slow or block the competing plan.
The operators of Connecticut's Foxwoods casino have proposed a resort casino in Milford, 30 miles west of Boston.
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