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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Breaking early from the gate

With one announcement, the owners of struggling Suffolk Downs have crystallized all the concerns of the anti-casino folks and made agnostics such as me start to wobble.

The suggestion that the East Boston track will try to open a temporary casino as early as next July (if they get a license of course) is, in a word, ludicrous. If nothing else, it suggests they haven't bothered to read the papers and blogs to see just how controversial Deval Patrick's three-casino proposal is.

Thankfully, Patrick spokesman Kyle Sullivan threw cold water on the idea.
"It's contrary to the governor's plan for destination resort casinos, which focuses on economic development and creating good jobs and good wages," said press secretary Kyle Sullivan, who declined to elaborate further. "The administration would not be supportive of temporary casinos."
More to the point, such premature enthusiasm may have cooked Suffolk's goose with legislators already skeptical about casinos. Note to COO Chip Tuttle: Robert Travaglini is no longer the Senate President, let alone your local legislator.

The wisdom of an urban casino has never been proven, as the Globe notes in an auspiciously timed editorial.

But the Suffolk Downs (or for that matter Wonderland) location presents special problems. They start with traffic. It's hard enough to get through the Sumner or Ted Williams tunnels now and we probably don't need to spend a lot of time on the nightmare known as Bell Circle.

The state faces a major task of fixing its highways and dealing with congestion. Adding even more cars to an already overburdened road is not a good way to address that problem.

Then there is the little matter of a busy international airport tucked next door.

One major hurdle for Suffolk Downs could be potential height and light restrictions because the casino would be beneath the flight path of passenger jets taking off and landing at Logan International Airport.

Suffolk Downs is less than 1.5 miles from one of Logan's busiest runways, and aviation specialists say the track owners almost certainly would face hurdles from the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the airport, and the Federal Aviation Authority, which controls its air traffic.

Suffolk's owners should celebrate they have given the track a modicum of respectability again by running the Mass Cap after a hiatus of several years. Then they should sit down and be quiet.

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