A friend who works at an East Boston non-profit recently told me that it has become more difficult to get MassPort to drop a contribution on the place, and the agency doesn't even return phone calls like they used to. He added that Suffolk Downs has become much more accessible and willing to make donations.
Of course, it all makes sense. MassPort doesn't need us much any more. They got almost everything they wanted in the past decade (additional runway, centerfield taxiway), so there's not as much motivation to smooth over ties with the neighborhood. There is still the consolidated rent-a-car facility, but it seems that there is less of an activist mindset in Eastie anyway. The Latino community here doesn't see Logan Airport as the encroaching beast that Italian-Americans of older generations did because the newer residents haven't been mowed over in a battle with MassPort yet.
Suffolk Downs, on the other hand, needs us. Multi-millionaire Richard Fields bought the track to build a casino there once the state's political establishment came around to approving expanded gambling, and now they're almost there. In order to quiet those in the neighborhood who might raise a ruckus, it helps to give cash to local non-profits. Community agencies can always use the help, and the total is just a tiny percentage of what Fields will make once the slots and table games start raking it in.
The East Boston Times is doing its part to support the racetrack. There have been nothing but pro-Suffolk Downs and pro-casino gambling stories in the local weekly, and this week the paper published a Suffolk Downs press release, also available on the track's web site, verbatim on the front of the sports section. Shouldn't readers be made aware that this material is written as marketing pablum?