Formal Talks to Begin with Casino on City’s Final Mitigation Package

Revere will be the first municipality to sit down with Suffolk Downs in the coming weeks as the City and the track begin official mitigation talks concerning the potential resort casino.

Revere would be the first community in the state to begin official negotiations with a potential casino licensee.

Mayor Dan Rizzo confirmed that the City is ready to start formal talks in a release issued on Monday. He said his goal is to create a steady stream of funding from the developer that will help revitalize the City and create jobs for its residents.

“Our economic development team has been working around the clock in order to create a mitigation agreement for the City of Revere,” said Rizzo. “The prospect of a resort style casino at Suffolk Downs will change the course of history in our city. It will boost our economy and not only create good paying jobs; they will create careers. It is my obligation to make sure that the interests of the city are protected. I look forward to beginning to move into the next phase of this process.”

Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle said they are glad to start the process.

“We look forward to working with the mayor and his leadership team to create a Host Community Agreement to make sure the City shares in the economic benefit to our proposed development as part of a larger process for continuing our dialog with the City and, hopefully, securing a license to build a world-class casino.

“We don’t really start with any pre-conceived notions, but only with the idea this needs to work for the City,” added Tuttle.

The decision to sit down with Suffolk comes after a number of public meetings around Revere that began on Feb. 9th.

Those meetings were held in several sections of the City, and another citywide forum was at City Hall.

There was a live call-in show on cable, and a recent online survey as well.

From that series of public meetings, Rizzo said his administration – with Economic Development Director John Festa spearheading the effort – has developed some frameworks for what they want in the process.

“A preliminary package has been developed by the administration which sets priorities and cost estimates for the next phase,” read the release. “The Mayor and his economic development team have conducted intensive research in order to create a clear mitigation plan for the City of Revere. The city also looked at similar agreements created by communities across the country that most resemble Revere, along with looking at other impact studies regarding casino gaming.”

Tuttle added that there is no timeline to finish the formal talks, but that they would like to be ready with everything in hand when the state Gaming Commission begins taking applications.

“The timeline is really up to our host communities,” said Tuttle. “When the Gaming Commission is ready to accept applications, we’d like to be ready to go with all the host community agreements and approved ballot questions as soon as it’s practical for us.”

Revere seems to be far ahead of the pack when it comes to the process of hammering out mitigation with Suffolk Downs.

In Boston, that process is only in its infancy.

Only last week did Boston Mayor Tom Menino appoint a host community agreement advisory committee. That committee will likely begin holding public meetings in East Boston and throughout Boston’s other neighborhoods during the rest of this year.

Most believe Boston is pretty far from being able to produce a preliminary mitigation plan.

The Host Community Agreement is just one pot of money that would be potentially spread to Revere.

The Agreement is over and above what would be coming to the City annually to offset the costs of a potential casino – costs such as increased police, fire and City services. That money would come from payments to the state consisting of 25 percent of the casino’s annual take. Exactly 6.5 percent of the state’s 25 percent share would be directed back to host communities, and that pot of money would be distributed by the state Gaming Commission.

The Host Community Agreement is completely separate from that money, and would consist of one-time projects, or annual payments such as in a student scholarship.

The third piece of the money puzzle is the one-time licensing fee that has to be paid to the state by the successful bidder.

Once the Host Community Agreement package is agreed upon by the Rizzo Administration and Suffolk Downs, it will be presented to the City Council for acceptance.

If it is accepted, that would trigger the community-wide ballot question referendum vote. The vote would be whether or not to allow the casino, as well as whether or not the Agreement is acceptable.

If that question passes, then and only then can Suffolk Downs apply to the state Gaming Commission for the ability to be considered for the region’s casino license.

The Commission has the final say on who gets a license and who does not.

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