By Seth Daniel
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) unanimously approved the Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA) between Boston and Wynn Everett on Thursday, Feb. 4, calling it a “treaty” that will bring forth new cooperation and new solutions for Charlestown and the region.
The MGC discussed the agreement at its meeting and took action on four measures, most importantly reinstating Boston as a surrounding community and approving the conditions in the new SCA that would replace the licensing conditions put in place by the MGC in Sept. 2014.
Boston had been stripped of its designation of surrounding community some years ago after refusing to negotiate with Wynn or attend an MGC-sanctioned arbitration process.
MGC Executive Director Ed Bedrosian Jr. called the agreement a “treaty” between Wynn, the MGC and the City of Boston. That characterization came precisely because all litigation between the three parties was dropped – including the potential appeal of Boston lawsuits against the MGC.
“This is, I would suggest, more akin to a treaty,” he said. “This will in part help define and clarify the relationships of the parties going forward which the parties will continue to have. So, I think everyone understands but I just want to be clear. Everyone is not taking their piece of the pie and going home. This is a new beginning with in part clarifying – helping to clarify our new relationships.”
Boston Corporate Counsel Gene O’Flaherty said he and Mayor Martin Walsh were ready to work together with Wynn.
“I am here this morning to echo my sister’s comments [from Wynn],” he said. “I agree wholeheartedly with what she has represented to you today. And certainly, appreciate the opportunity for the record to say to you that the City of Boston is looking forward to developing a new relationship, not only with Wynn, but also with the Mass Gaming Commission. And the Mayor wanted me especially this morning to indicate to you and send to you his goodwill and also that we look forward to implementing, presumptively with your approval, what you have in front of you today.”
Wynn Resorts’s Jacqui Crum said it has been a difficult road, but the agreement represents a new beginning.
“It has been a long and sometimes difficult road for all of us,” she said. “But we’ve remained committed to the project and are working on an engagement of 4,000 construction workers as we sit here today. The majority of the surrounding community agreement contains the terms from our license conditions. The one exception is the elimination of the traffic reduction incentive payment. In addition to mitigating the impacts of our traffic estimated to cost approximately $11 million prior to opening, we have committed to an additional $25 million for the implementation of the long-term plan. No other private developer has committed any funds for this purpose.”
That stipulation, the $20 million traffic reduction incentive payment, was the one major piece of mitigation put in by the MGC that was dropped in the Boston SCA. Dropping that was a testament to the newfound working relationship to all parties, as well as the confidence that a long-term solution will be found as a result of the Wynn catalyst.
“This agreement really appears to be one of going forward,” said Commissioner Enrique Zuniga. “It is clear that there’s a lot of goodwill to make solutions happen. We believed, I personally believed that this project could be a catalyst for long-standing problems to the Sullivan Square area. It’s not to be the only venue to solve them, and that by itself requires a lot of cooperation among parties.”
Added Crum, “Our goal has always been to make the traffic work. It is critical to our business and our relationship with the community. We never anticipated making the traffic reduction incentive payment because we plan to implement a robust transportation demand management program which will encourage alternate forms of transportation. With that in mind, we felt it was more important to commit to the certainty of an additional $6 million and to move the long-term solution forward rather than a speculative $20 million.”
Additionally, the agreement calls for the resolution of all litigation. Boston has agreed to not appeal its lawsuits against the MGC licensing process – which were dismissed in Suffolk Superior Court last December. Additionally, it has agreed to drop a lawsuit against Wynn calling for the nullification of the MEPA certificate awarded last summer.
Wynn, on the other hand, has agreed to drop a defamation lawsuit filed last fall against the City of Boston regarding accusations cited in its lawsuits against the MGC.
Commissioners Gayle Cameron and Bruce Stebbins concurred with the positive sentiment, both saying they would be watching and keeping track of the process – especially on the traffic solution front.
Commissioner Lloyd MacDonald abstained from the vote as he was not a commissioner during the licensing of Wynn.