At least 10 people in Massachusetts don’t want to see a second slots parlor follow Plainridge Park. The group of residents have filed a complaint with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts against the Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth in an attempt to keep a question off the November 2016 ballot asking citizens if they would approve another limited casino in the state. The most likely applicant for that license, were it to be made available, is Suffolk Downs.
At least one of the ten plaintiffs belongs to a group called, “No Eastie Casino” formed in 2012 to fight a proposal to build a casino at Suffolk Downs, a racetrack partially in East Boston and partially in Revere.
At issue is a proposal that would authorize the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to license another slot parlor. Slot parlors like Plainridge Park offer video gambling terminals and other amenities in addition to horse racing or other attractions. They are not full-fledged casinos with table games. The ballot question as currently proposed is specific in that the new parlor would have to be located close to a racetrack. Ballot questions in Massachusetts are not allowed to designate a particular location.
The group contends that the language of the question leaves no doubt that it refers to Suffolk Downs. Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has already certified the question and deemed it constitutional because the language is broad enough to apply to any number of specific locales.
The group seems to be reaching for straws in contending, in another angle, that the question is similar enough to a failed measure on the 2014 ballot repealing the state’s authority to allow casino gambling. Posing a question that is “substantially the same” in two subsequent statewide elections is not allowed under Massachusetts law.
Earlier, in association with Mohegan Sun, Suffolk Downs had sought a license for a casino in Revere. That proposal was beaten out in the bidding process by Wynn Resorts who are building a $1.6 billion development in Everett.
MGM is also building a 850,000 square foot casino resort in Springfield. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is currently authorized, but doesn’t have to, award one more license in the SE part of the state. The sole remaining bidder in that region is awaiting word from the commission on their $600 million resort casino proposed for the Brockton Fairgrounds. The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe could also build a multi-phase casino resort in Taunton at a price tag of up to $500 million.
Suffolk Downs racecourse closed on October 4, 2014 but reopened in March. The New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is leasing the track and will evaluate the number of race days, if any, to be offered in 2016.