BOSTON (AP) — The owners of Suffolk Downs unveiled plans Tuesday for a $1 billion resort casino at the 77-year-old thoroughbred horse racing track.
The proposal, to be known as “The Resort at Suffolk Downs,” calls for a casino, two hotels, restaurants, retail shops, entertainment areas and racing on the 163-acre site in the city’s East Boston neighborhood.
Suffolk Downs and its partner, Caesars Entertainment of Las Vegas, plan to bid for one of the three resort casino licenses under the state’s new gambling law.
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Richard Fields, principal owner of the race track, said the facility would create “thousands of great-paying union jobs during construction and thousands more of not just jobs, but careers in the hospitality and gaming industries.”
The announcement included the first architectural renderings of the project.
“We envision an urban oasis,” said David Manfredi, the lead architect.
The first phase of the design calls for a nine-story hotel and casino, with a second, 11-story hotel planned for the second phase of the project, he said.
The current Suffolk Downs grandstand would be “reinvented,” said Manfredi, with casino gambling added there as well.
Visitors would approach the resort on a tree-lined boulevard off Route 1A that would be designed to resemble historic Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
Fields said the location would be a perfect site for the resort, five minutes from Logan International Airport and about 10 minutes from downtown Boston.
Officials of the track promised to spend $40 million to address traffic concerns in the congested urban neighborhood, but Fields declined to specify the transportation improvements at Tuesday’s announcement.
Suffolk Downs will be competing for the sole resort casino license that the state Gaming Commission can award in eastern Massachusetts.
The track’s hopes of landing the license received a boost last month when Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn suspended plans to develop a casino in Foxborough in the face of heavy opposition from residents.
The only other current casino proposal in the eastern region is in the town of Milford, about 25 miles west of Boston.
Suffolk Downs also would appear to have some powerful political allies on its side as it pursues a casino license. The track is within the legislative district of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who was one of the driving forces behind passage of the casino law.
In April, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino appointed a five-member advisory panel to help the city plan for development of a casino at the track. He said at the time that it presented a rare and historic economic development opportunity for the city.
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo also has expressed support for a Suffolk Downs casino.
Because the site straddles the East Boston neighborhood and the city of Revere, developers must reach agreements with both cities.
The gambling law requires voters in a host community to approve of a casino, but in the state’s three largest cities — Boston, Worcester and Springfield — a vote is only required in the city ward where the casino would be located.
The mayor and city council can opt to hold a citywide referendum, but Menino has said in the past he would prefer limiting the vote to East Boston residents only, saying they would be the most impacted by the project.
Opponents, including the group No Eastie Casino, are pushing residents to reject the casino, saying it would snarl traffic, increase crime and other social problems related to gambling, hurt restaurants and other small businesses and depress real estate values in the neighborhood.
The opponents have argued that a casino would result in an additional 8,000 to 10,000 cars using roads already strained by traffic coming to and from the airport.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.