^ Suffolk Downs casino resort : looking likelier now

The deal is in place now. An agreement has been reached, between Mayor Menino and the Boston casino developers, a partnership between Suffolk downs race track and Caesars Entertainment of Nevada. The terms of this deal include $ 33.4 million for East Boston development and a promise of 4,000 full time jobs. All that is now needed is a favorable vote in a referendum, as provided in the State legislation that enacted three casino zones offering one casino license per zone.

As the City of Boston / Suffolk Downs deal is now in place, why do we write about under fhe “Boston Mayor Race’ rubric ? After all, the new mayor won’t take office until well after said refendum must, be state law, be held.

The answer is simple : that such a significant deal could be made, basically, by one man, and announced in the climax month of a campaign to choose his successor, makes oh-so-crystal-clear just how powerful a Mayor of Boston really is and how huge the election campaign portends to be, even if many Boston voters don’t realize it. The Mayor of Boston runs the City, decides its future, commands its shape, tone, life style, parameters. The Seaport District, the Downtown waterfront, the Greenway, city workers’ union contracts, the taxi scandal, and, yes, the mega-million-dollar casino, all owe their coming to one Mayor — and to the voters who have returned him to office four additional times.

The next Mayor will have no less dominace than Tom Menino has put forth for everyone to see.

That will be true unless the City’s charter is amended. No one is proposing to try this. The last charter change was done in 1981, and it changed only the method of electing the City Counjcil and of choosing the City’s school committee. The mayor’s power was not diminished; indeed, it increased. The school committee moved from being elected to being appointed by the Mayor.

The Suffolk Downs / Boston casino now heads to a referendum in which all signs point toward approval. It’s a big deal. And an emotional one. Casino gambling is opposed by many on -principle. Locating a resort casino in this or that community generates “NIMBY” opposition — we recall only too well the town of Foxboro repulsing a proposal by billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn partnering with New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft. Still, it would run contrary to the power of Boston’s Mayor to bet against his seeing the East Boston casino referendum generate a favorable vote.

At that point, the new mayor takes over. And will be faced with the ultimate casino question : Boston or Everett ? We seem to forget that the Suffolk Downs deal is not the end of this saga. It isn’t.

The next Mayor of Boston will have to decide : shall Boston go to war with the competing, Everett casino plan, already approved by Everett voters and powerfully advocated their Mayor, Carlo diMaria, on behalf of Steve Wynn and his billions ? Because Boston’s next mayor can overpower Wynn — at the gaming Commission, which will decide who gets the one zonal license — if he or she really insists.  

Or does the next Mayor decide to let Everett and Wynn go first –and East Boston settle, instead, for the “innovation district” that Mayoral hopeful Bill Walczak — alone of all those running — has proposed ?

Maybe someone will ask this question of the twelve Mayoral candidates in one of the many Mayoral Forums coming up.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ jobs, $ 33.4 million, and gambling.

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