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Casino partners up the antes in Bay State bids

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published September 01. 2013 4:00AM   Updated September 02. 2013 12:06AM
Foxwoods apparently altering Milford proposal

Gaming partners tossed money around with seeming abandon last week in Massachusetts, at least on paper.

One of the southeastern Connecticut casinos, Mohegan Sun, took part in the dealing, while the other, Foxwoods, discovered it has some anteing-up to do to stay in the running for one of the Bay State's coveted casino licenses.

In any case, gaming regulators charged with stoking the bidding must have been high-fiving each other by week's end.

On Tuesday, a partnership intent on converting an East Boston racetrack into a $1 billion resort casino announced that Caesars Resort at Suffolk Downs eventually could generate $52 million a year for the City of Boston. On Wednesday, the partnership said the City of Revere, home to a portion of the proposed site, could count on $16 million a year once the casino was fully operational.

The project also would entail $49 million in upfront investments in education, parks, public health, arts and public safety, and $45 million worth of highway improvements.

On Thursday, Mohegan Sun agreed to provide Palmer, the western Massachusetts town where the Uncasville casino wants to build a $1 billion resort, with nearly $3 million upfront and $16 million a year in "mitigation" payments, as well as undertake as much as $40 million in infrastructure work.

Project officials were quick to point out that when you consider Palmer has fewer than 13,000 residents, the town's per capita windfall from Mohegan Sun Massachusetts would exceed what other municipalities in line to host casino developments in the region have been promised. In western Massachusetts, Mohegan Sun's competition for a casino license is MGM Resorts International and Hard Rock International, which have proposed projects in Springfield and West Springfield, respectively. Both cities are far more populous than Palmer.

Amid the deluge of lucre, Foxwoods Massachusetts is sharpening its pencil as it eyes the same Greater Boston license sought by Caesars Resort at Suffolk Downs and by Wynn Resorts, which has proposed a $1.2 billion project for Everett. Foxwoods' $1 billion project is proposed for Milford, a town of about 28,000 people.

Milford officials learned last week that Foxwoods intends to make changes in its plan. In phone interviews Friday, one of the town's three selectmen characterized the alterations as significant, while another said they actually would reduce the overall scope of the project.

Foxwoods would release no information about the changes Friday.

"They're talking about material changes in the project - buildings with a different number of stories, a different number of hotel rooms, changes in the gaming area and who knows what else," said William Buckley, chairman of the Milford Board of Selectmen. "They're realizing they're not competitive with the other Boston proposals."

When selectmen debated the agreement at a meeting last week, Buckley called for Foxwoods to make greater mitigation payments to the town than the $18 million a year the developer had proposed. He said he wanted "Everett money," a reference to the $30 million in upfront payments and $25 million a year Wynn Resorts had agreed to pay Everett if it wins the Greater Boston license.

Buckley, who dissented when selectmen voted 2-1 to negotiate an agreement with Foxwoods, ruled out any chance selectmen would act on the agreement when it meets Wednesday night.

Selectman Brian Murray, however, said he thought it was possible selectmen would vote.

"Essentially, it's still the same proposal," he said.

According to Murray, Foxwoods is proposing to develop more of the two-phase project in the first phase than previously planned. The result, he said, would be a reduction in the overall scope of the project.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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