Trump Thrown to the Dogs?
It was not overly surprising to read in the Globe this morning that Wonderland Park owner Charles Sarkis is in talks with Donald Trump on a casino partnership. Sarkis has (some) land, but not enough gaming experience or money. While Trump has money and gaming experience, but not land.
What is surprising is the way word got out, which is to say that Sarkis apparently dialed up the Globe right after his phone conversation with Trump and said something akin to, “Hey, guess who I just talked to! Donald Trump! The Donald! He was on my phone!”
The normally loquacious Trump has been guarded about his casino plans—you could ask his spokesman what he had for lunch and he’d say “no comment”—and can’t appreciate Sarkis running his mouth. You’d have to imagine that Sarkis knows that too. Why, then, if Sarkis was really serious about working with Trump would he go gabbing to the Globe?
The answer is to put pressure on Suffolk Downs.
Suffolk and Wonderland have been involved in on-again off-again negotiations to combine their bids for months. By contrast, Wonderland and Trump had a 15 minute phone conversation. Sarkis has significantly more invested in his relationship with the East Boston horse racing track, but by making it look like he’s ready to jump into bed with Trump, the arch-nemesis of Suffolk Downs owner Richard Fields, Sarkis may be trying to push his long-time negotiating partners.
It would be a bit much to say Sarkis is acting out of desperation, but at this point it’s got to be something close to that.
According to a source close to the situation, at least five other entities have entered into talks with Wonderland—Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Penn National Gaming, and Suffolk Downs—and so far all negotiations have broken down. The consistent problem, according to the source, is that Wonderland, nestled into just 36 acres compared to Suffolk Downs’ 163, lacks the space and infrastructure to make a resort casino work.
Factor in a looming greyhound racing referendum on the November, 2008 ballot and Sarkis is solidly up against the wall. Faced with losing out on both a casino and his dog racing business, he’s got little choice but to try to cast his lot with Suffolk Downs. His bet is that Trump will help him do that.
Whether it works or not, at the very least we get to sit here and imagine the fantastic look on Trump’s face was this morning when he read the Globe story, and realized he was being leveraged by a dog track owner from Revere.