MGC Denies Boston Host Community Status: Walsh Weighing Legal Options Following Ruling

May 15, 2014
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Last Thursday the Massachusetts Gaming Commission rejected the City of Boston’s petition to be considered a ‘Host Community’, which would have allowed Charlestown to vote on a casino referendum and possibly a more lucrative community agreement.

While the city argued that both the Wynn proposal in Everett and the Mohegan Sun proposal in Revere adjacent to the Suffolk Downs Racetrack in East Boston would benefit from Boston roads and other amenities, the Gaming Commission ruled otherwise and designated Boston a surrounding community.

“I’m disappointed in today’s decision by the Gaming Commission,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “The Commission’s announcement seemed predetermined because after three hours of testimony, they only took ten minutes to arrive at a decision. I have said — and I truly believe — that Boston is a host community to both sites, and I intend to continue to do everything in my power to protect our best interests. The people of East Boston and Charlestown deserve the opportunity to vote. I will meet with my legal team to evaluate all of the options available to us right now. We have not made a decision about our next step, but we will share developments as they are available.”

At last Thursday’s hearing city lawyers said that both Wynn and Mohegan would benefit from the city’s numerous amenities and infrastructure like Rutherford Avenue. While the city argued Boston roads would be the only road to access Wynn’s $1.5 billion proposal Wynn’s lawyers argued that did not qualify Boston as a Host Community. The MGC agreed with the latter.

“Based on the ambiguous and arbitrary process the Gaming Commission has pursued, we believe that we have multiple options available to us at this time,” said Walsh. “We are continuing to work aggressively to determine the appropriate action to continue our fight for the people of Boston. My position has not changed: Boston is a host community to both sites, and the people of Boston — of Charlestown and East Boston — deserve the opportunity to vote and have their voices heard.”

City Councilor Sal LaMattina has repeatedly asked Wynn officials for more information concerning traffic impacts, environmental impacts and more concrete details on mitigation.

“I firmly believe Boston is a host community and the residents of Charlestown should be able to vote,” said LaMattina. “Traffic impacts along Rutherford Ave, Sullivan Square and Route 99 have not been addressed in any meaningful way by Wynn. If traffic plans could not be implemented by a casino in neighboring Everett a casino is probably not a viable option for the area and the residents here should decide that.”

Plans have already been approved by the Boston Transportation Department to reduce traffic on Route 99 by redesigning the Rutherford Avenue and Sullivan Square corridor. Some Charlestown residents have said future casino traffic, without meaningful mitigation, could jeopardize or destroy years of hard work and thoughtful planning for this corridor and negatively impact the neighborhood.

At the start of last week’s hearing, Gaming Commission Chairman, Stephen Crosby recused himself from voting on the Region A casino license after photos surfaced of the chairman attending a VIP Party at Suffolk Down’s opening day celebration and Kentucky Derby simulcast.

In a statement before last week’s hearing, Crosby said “I have said repeatedly over my 2 years as Chair of the Gaming Commission that the single highest priority for our work is that we protect the integrity of the decision making process. And I have also said repeatedly that the appearance of integrity as well as the reality of integrity is critical. Over the past several months, my behavior and judgment concerning the parties to the Region A decision has been questioned, sometimes in good faith, sometimes in bad faith. Frankly, neither I nor any of the Commissioners have any doubt about my ability to be impartial in the decision making process. But the compounding of these issues has now gotten to the point where my participation in the decision making process has become a distraction and a potential threat to our critical appearance of total impartiality. I want to take this opportunity to note the extraordinary amount of hard work and dedication that has resulted in the considerable progress and accomplishment achieved by the Commission and its staff since we embarked on the implementation of an incredibly complex licensing process and the establishment of a new state agency. I will not allow anything to distract or discredit that comprehensive effort. Therefore, I have decided to recuse myself from any further involvement in any of the issues concerning the licensing decision for Region A. For those discussions, Commissioner Jim McHugh will act as Chair of the Commission and my decision will have no impact on the schedule for Region A.”

Meanwhile, members of Repeal the Casino Deal were at Monday night meeting in Boston to collect signatures from residents to get a casino repeal question on the state ballot in November.

Attorney Matt Cameron and Brian Gannon said they have 73,000 signatures and need 11,000 more. Whether or not a repeal question will appear on the state ballot is now in the hands of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court who will rule on the argument by the summer.