Boston-Wynn ‘treaty’ approved

War is over – city says let good times roll

The war between the city of Boston and Wynn Resorts is officially over, complete with the approval of what the executive director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission described as a “treaty” between the two parties.

The treaty consisted of an agreement in which the city, Wynn, and the Gaming Commission agreed to drop all legal action against each other and a separate document in which the city acknowledges it is a surrounding community – and not a host community – to the Everett casino.

Although city officials said they welcomed the agreements, they represent a major attitude recalibration for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Walsh has vehemently insisted for about a year that Boston is a host community to the casino and that residents of Charlestown should be entitled to vote up or down on whether they want the project located on the city’s doorstep.

At times, the war between the city and Wynn became quite heated. For example, the city accused the Gaming Commission of engaging in a “corrupt process” in awarding a casino license to Wynn. The city also accused top executives at Wynn of lying about when they became aware of a felon’s hidden interest in the land purchased for the casino. Steve Wynn responded by calling Walsh “irresponsible” and targeting his administration with a libel lawsuit.

But after racking up $2 million in private legal fees on a court case that was dismissed in December by Judge Janet Sanders, Walsh decided to call an end to the war. Walsh and Steve Wynn sat down together late last year at the Parkman House, alone without any aides or lawyers present, and buried the hatchet, leading to the deal that was approved on Thursday by the Gaming Commission. The vote was 3-0, with commission chairman Stephen Crosby away on vacation and new commissioner Lloyd MacDonald abstaining. The commission’s executive director, Ed Bedrosian, called the agreements a treaty as opposed to a settlement.

Boston Corporation Counsel Eugene O'Flaherty (left) with Jacque Krum, senior vice president and general counsel for Wynn Everett.

Boston Corporation Counsel Eugene O’Flaherty (left) with Jacque Krum, senior vice president and general counsel for Wynn Everett.

The surrounding community agreement offers face-saving gestures for both sides but doesn’t substantively change the original terms imposed by the Gaming Commission after Boston balked at negotiating with Wynn Resorts. The agreement requires Wynn Resorts to give the city an extra $6 million over 15 years and ups the project’s target spending amount on Boston vendors from $15 million to $20 million. The deal also provides an attractive sweetener for Wynn, doing away with financial penalties if the Las Vegas developer fails to fully mitigate its traffic impact in Sullivan Square. The penalties could have cost the company $20 million.

Boston Corporation Counsel Eugene O’Flaherty, who led the legal fight against the Wynn casino, sat side-by-side with Wynn’s legal counsel during the Gaming Commission hearing and joined Robert DeSalvio, the president of Wynn Resorts Everett, for a press conference afterward.

“From this point forward, Wynn’s success is the city of Boston’s success and vice versa, and we look forward to our new relationship,” O’Flaherty told reporters.

He also promised residents of Charlestown that the traffic tie-ups that currently plague the neighborhood’s Sullivan Square – and which the city had insisted would only be exacerbated by a casino – were going to be eradicated. “Gridlock as it exists today is on the way out,” O’Flaherty said.

Walsh has backed away from a transportation plan for the area around Sullivan Square that was initially developed by former mayor Thomas Menino, but no new plan has emerged from talks among city, state, and casino officials. Sources say the state is likely to take the lead role in dealing with Sullivan Square.

Pressed on whether the city’s lawsuits trying to block the casino were a mistake, O’Flaherty refused to veer off script.

“Our relationship with Mr. Wynn is based on the future, not the past, and I think the agreement and what you see today is reflective of that,” he said.

Asked again whether the lawsuit was a mistake, O’Flaherty said: “We’re focused on moving forward.”

Asked if his answer should be interpreted as a non-answer or a no comment, O’Flaherty said: “You can take it any way you like.”

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Wynn officials said that, barring any new challenges, they hope to begin construction in May after the first phase of remedial work is completed on the polluted Everett casino site along the Mystic River.

DeSalvio, the Wynn Resorts Everett president, said the hotel-casino should open during the second half of 2018 and expects to hire 4,000 permanent employees. He said the project will generate $660 million a year in economic benefits for the state, including $211 million in annual gaming tax payments.