BOSTON (Reuters) - The Suffolk Downs racetrack put its cards on the table on Friday, formally notifying gambling officials it was seeking one of Massachusetts' new casino licenses as part of plans for an entertainment complex that could create thousands of jobs.
Owners of the East Boston racetrack said they had submitted a $400,000 non-refundable fee to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to get the ball rolling, one day after the commission began accepting applications.
"We begin this formal part of earning a license to develop a world-class destination resort at our 77-year-old racetrack with great enthusiasm and with the understanding that our project must set the standard for gaming development in Massachusetts," said Richard Fields, Suffolk Downs principal owner.
Massachusetts legalized casino gambling in 2011. Lawmakers carved the state up into three districts, and allotted one casino license to each. Suffolk Downs has been seen as the front-runner for the Boston-area license.
All casino applicants will face a months-long review process likely to stretch into next year.
Suffolk Downs is in a second phase of public meetings to promote its plans. It has committed $40 million to improve local roads and intersections if the casino gets the go-ahead.
The racetrack would join forces with casino operator Caesars Entertainment Corp. and build a Caesars-branded resort at Suffolk Downs that includes a casino, hotel, restaurants and retail outlets.
The track, the only thoroughbred horse racing venue in New England, would continue to operate.
The Suffolk Downs development proposal says it could generate $200 million annually in new state tax revenues, and thousands of jobs - first in construction and then at the planned resort.
(Reporting By Ros Krasny; Editing by Xavier Briand)