East Boston is in the pole position when it comes to reaping jobs and vendor contracts from a proposed resort casino at Suffolk Downs. But the partners behind the project are starting to reach out to Boston’s other neighborhoods as well— beginning with a Sept. 10 “business partnership forum” at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury.
“This is a billion dollar development and we view the economic opportunity to be for the city of Boston as a whole,” said Chip Tuttle, Chief Operating Officer of Suffolk Downs. “There’ll be a ton of opportunity for our closest neighbors, but we think it can and will be beneficial to neighborhoods neigh beyond Eastie. And that’s the reason we’re holding the vendor forum at the Reggie Lewis Center. We want to make sure that other parts of the city are equally excited.”
The Roxbury event is one of two next month (a second is set for Sept. 11 in Salem) intended to introduce the Suffolk Downs- Caesar’s Entertainment proposal to potential vendors. The deal must still clear a number of regulatory hurdles — including a referendum by at least some Boston voters— before any formal contracts are inked. But Fred Keeton, the chief diversity officer for Caesar’s Entertainment, says the partners want to begin the process of recruiting potential vendors now. Minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses are particularly encouraged to attend.
“This is really for Boston-based businesses to come and find out what types of goods and services the type of facilities we are proposing need to source and what the process is like,” explained Keeton. “This forum in particular is a vendor forum. We will do a career forum later in early October.”
Tuttle framed the event as “an introductory and educational session” aimed at detailing the scope of the project and the opportunity it presents for an estimated $100-150 million annual spending on local and regional goods and services.
One vendor category that could benefit from the proposed resort model, Tuttle says, are city restaurants that could bid to have a place within the casino itself.
“We’re looking at a pretty substantial restaurant program that will include some very high-end fine dining concepts in the development and that will be a mix of national and local opportunities,” Tuttle explained. “We had a concept for a 400-600 seat venue on second floor of one of the spaces called the Streets of Boston, which would include 6-8 outlets around it with a common seating area. Those opportunities are being reserved for local businesses.
While some casino foes worry that the resort model might hurt smaller eateries by gobbling up visitors on site, Keeton says that Caesar’s has experience in partnering with businesses to send customers their way.
“In New Orleans, our Harrod’s property does business with 30 restauranteurs and generates about $46 million with those operators,” said Kennen. “It gives us an opportunity top market Harrod’s casino and rather than having people ensconsed into one place, the city invigorates ethe resort resort. We have a total rewards program- an affinity program- and within that construct we engage both restaurants and hoteliers so use your points for play when you go out to those properties.”
Suffolk Downs and Caesars plan to build the resort and casino next to the existing thoroughbred racetrack on a property that sprawls over some 161 acres on the Boston-Revere line.
The Sept. 10 event will include two sessions, one from 3-5 p.m. and another from 7-9 p.m To RSVP, call 617-548-9846 or visit www.friendsofsuffolkdowns.com/events .