Gaming Panel: Wynn in dark on land owners

Takes no action on Suffolk Downs request

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission gave no indication Thursday whether it planned go back to the drawing board on a Greater Boston casino license after receiving a Suffolk Downs request to “reevaluate” its decision to award a license to Wynn Resorts.

State investigators appeared before the commission to underline their findings that Wynn was in the dark about alleged illegal activities by three of the four owners of the company selling Wynn the land for the proposed Everett casino.

Three of FBT Realty’s four owners, Anthony Gattineri, Dustin DeNunzio, and Charles Lightbody, a convicted felon with Mafia ties, were indicted last week on state and federal charges of fraud, conspiracy, and other crimes for their role in the sale of the parcel to Wynn. The FBI had notified Massachusetts investigators in early July 2013 that Lightbody had hidden interests in the Everett land deal.

The three allegedly sought to conceal the involvement of Lightbody from Wynn and the Gaming Commission, in part, by altering documents to suggest that the others had bought his share of the real estate company before the remaining partners opened dealings with Wynn.

“[The commission’s investigations and enforcement bureau] uncovered no additional information that Wynn personnel had knowledge of or participated in any efforts to conceal any information from the commission,” said Detective Lieutenant Brian Connors of the Massachusetts State Police.

“The indictments clearly portray Wynn as a victim of a scheme, not a participant in or some entity with knowledge of that scheme,” said Commissioner James McHugh during a break in the hearing.

An attorney representing Suffolk Downs sent a letter on Wednesday to the commission asking the agency to “reevaluate its selection” of Wynn. Charles A. Baker III, of DLA Piper of Boston, argued that the indictments and several land transactions needed for the casino are enough to prompt a review of the Wynn award.

Baker questioned whether, given the indictments, the sale of the parcel can be completed within the 60-day period required by law. He added that the $35 million sale price is far above fair market value and would give “unscrupulous individuals” a “greater windfall” if the sale goes through.

McHugh said that he had not studied the Suffolk Downs letter and declined to comment on how the commission would respond. But he also showed support for Wynn. “We’ve got a good proposal for the Commonwealth,” McHugh said. “Why should the Commonwealth and the region and that operator be penalized for something they had no knowledge of and over which they had no control?”

Suffolk Downs CEO Chip Tuttle expressed skepticism. “For two-and-a-half years we’ve heard that integrity and the appearance of integrity were the foremost concerns of this commission,” he said. “Are we supposed to be thankful today that none of the people who were indicted would be involved in the gaming facility?”

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Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

Tuttle added that the employees who lost their jobs when Suffolk Downs closed last week have suffered the most. “We keep hearing that the Wynn folks were victims and the commission was a victim,” Tuttle said. “Well, we’ve got another 800 people who are victims.”

In other gaming news, the state received four applications for horse racing licenses. Springfield Gaming and Redevelopment wants to operate a 105-day harness racing schedule at Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville. The Brockton Agricultural Society, the Middleborough Agricultural Society, and the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association have each filed applications to hold one-day thoroughbred racing events.

The agricultural societies would hold their events at the Brockton Fairgrounds and the horsemen’s association at Suffolk Downs. The commission plans to accept public comments on the applications until October 30 and hold public hearings in the host communities.