BOSTON (AP) -- A majority of Massachusetts' gambling commission appeared Tuesday to be leaning toward allowing Mohegan Sun to pursue a casino on land owned by Suffolk Downs in Revere, without requiring a second vote by the city's residents.
Three of the five members of the panel, including its chairman, Stephen Crosby, indicated in remarks during a meeting that even though the proposal had changed dramatically from the one Revere voters backed on Nov. 5, they believed an earlier agreement between Suffolk Downs and the city allowed for broad revisions and noted there had not as yet been any discernable outcry among residents over the new plan.
Two commissioners, James McHugh and Bruce Stebbins, expressed reservations about allowing the plan to proceed without a second referendum — which would not be possible before the state's Dec. 31 deadline for final casino applications.
The panel put off a final decision — which does not have to be unanimous — until next week, when it will also formally decide whether to allow Mohegan Sun to replace Suffolk Downs as the applicant for the sole eastern Massachusetts casino license.
Suffolk Downs, a 78-year-old thoroughbred racetrack, turned to a Revere-only scenario after East Boston voters rejected a proposed casino that would have straddled the communities. Suffolk Downs later announced that Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun, which failed in an earlier bid for a casino in Palmer, would develop and operate the casino.
While calling the Revere proposal "very attractive," McHugh expressed concern over the change in the scope of the project in Revere and the switch from Suffolk Downs to Mohegan Sun as the applicant.
"I am troubled by those issues," said McHugh, a former judge. "I'm troubled by the dramatic change in the content of the agreement, from the agreement that was before voters."
But Crosby noted that the agreement between Suffolk Downs and Revere not only allowed for, but actually encouraged, future expansion in Revere.
"It was anticipated that there was the possibility of a substantial change," said Crosby. "There was a reopener clause that begged for more development in Revere."
Commissioners Gayle Cameron and Enrique Zuniga also indicated support for allowing the Revere-only plan to move forward, with Cameron saying the panel had received only one objection from a Revere voter about the revised plan — and that from a resident who had voted no in the Nov. 5 referendum.
"How do people in Revere feel? Do they feel it is a different project? I haven't seen that response," Cameron said.
While it would no longer operate the casino, Suffolk Downs — New England's only thoroughbred facility — has promised to continue racing at the track which is located on the East Boston side of the Revere border. But it would have to move its stables to a new location to make room for the proposed casino.
If the commission does give Mohegan Sun the green light to apply, the proposal could be in competition for the eastern regional casino license with Wynn Resorts, which has proposed a casino for Everett. The commission hopes to award the license by mid-2014.