Poll Taxing Dispute Over Local Casino Vote Stirs Emotions:Ryan Says Time to Get Best Agreement, Not a Vote

When it comes to Charlestown getting a vote on the Wynn casino project, strong emotions from all angles seem to have popped up lately.

In a phone conversation that ended “badly,” according to comments by Steve Wynn in Tuesday’s Boston Globe, Mayor Martin Walsh hung up on him when a disagreement over a Charlestown vote elicited strong words.

According to Wynn’s comments in the Globe, he had said there would be a vote “over my dead body,” and that’s when Walsh allegedly hung up on him.

The idea of a vote for Charlestown at this late date has gathered steam in theory, and especially in social media, lately due to the impending ruling in late September on the Boston lawsuit – which calls for the City, among other things, to receive host community status. Were that status granted now, it would likely trigger a neighborhood vote for Charlestown. While all of Boston voted to allow casinos, Charlestown voted to disband the expanded gaming law last November in a ballot question.

Not everyone is so keen on that local vote happening.

The top elected official from Charlestown, State Rep. Dan Ryan, said chasing a vote is not the most beneficial thing for the neighborhood, and he would rather see the pursuit of a strong Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA). His reasoning, he said, is based on the fact that when Revere was allowed to put in an alternate, Revere-only casino project following the East Boston rejection vote, East Boston followed that up by negotiating an SCA with the new casino proponent, Mohegan Sun.

“Charlestown did deserve a vote, back in 2013,” said Ryan. “At that time, the premise of host community status at Suffolk Downs and Everett were similar. The two sites in question had a municipal boundary as part of the equation. Trying to look at this impartially, Charlestown’s right to a vote was waived when Mohegan Sun was allowed a Revere-only vote without East Boston. I don’t like it, but I have always tried to approach this issue with reality. The logic when it was East Boston’s turn was to get the best surrounding community agreement for Boston as possible. That is the best use of our energy now. Charlestown will be best served by getting to the table and hashing this thing out.”

Wynn officials have also called out Boston to begin negotiating with them on the casino project, and in that infamous call described above, both men were said to have talked about getting together some time around Labor Day.

Boston has been hesitant participate in any discussions or planning processes regarding the casino due to the litigation in the courts, and has called vigorously this summer for a local vote.

In comments two weeks ago in a radio broadcast, Mayor Walsh said the issue was about getting a vote for Charlestown, and not getting more money. Those comments, disputed by Wynn, revolve around the same infamous telephone conversation detailed by Wynn in Tuesday’s Globe.

“(Wynn) threw a figure at me about money but it’s really not about the money,” Walsh said on the radio. “It’s about allowing the people of Charlestown to vote…Our concerns have been with mainly the way that the Gaming Commission has handled Boston in this particular case but we’ll have a conversation and I’ll express to Mr. Wynn and the Wynn folks the importance of making sure the people of Charlestown have the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Meanwhile, several activists in Charlestown believe that its time to have a vote and that the reality of it is not that far away.

“The reason I think we will stop this casino is I do believe we’ll get the host community vote,” said Lynne Levesque. “For example, in Revere, after the East Boston vote, they agreed to let Revere come back with a project. If they can do that, why can’t they change the definition of what is a host community? I am confident we’ll get the host community vote.”

The matter is truly up in the air, as a judge in the Business Litigation Division of Suffolk Superior Court will rule on the matter in late September – primarily deciding whether or not to throw out Boston’s lawsuit in total or in part or not at all.

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