Walsh sues gaming panel over Wynn license

Mayor insists Boston is host community of casino

BOSTON MAYOR MARTY WALSH on Monday filed suit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, suggesting the city was coming up short in its bid to extract more mitigation money from Wynn Resorts for its proposed casino in neighboring Everett.

Wynn on Monday paid $35 million for the 33-acre parcel it needs for its proposed Everett casino, but the Las Vegas company is waiting on the MBTA to sell it additional land needed for the preferred entrance to the facility. In its lawsuit, the city of Boston says Wynn’s failure to purchase the MBTA land by Monday essentially voids the casino license Wynn obtained from the Gaming Commission.

The Gaming Commission had no immediate comment on the city’s lawsuit and Wynn officials declined comment.

Walsh has sent confusing signals about casino gambling on Boston’s borders ever since he was elected. He voted for casino gambling as a state legislator, but his actions as mayor of Boston have raised doubts about whether he still believes a Greater Boston casino will be good economically for the city and the region.

There were originally two casino proposals for the lone Greater Boston license, one in Revere just beyond the city’s border with Boston that runs through Suffolk Downs and the other in Everett just outside of Rutherford Square in Boston.

Walsh signed a lucrative surrounding community agreement with Mohegan Sun in connection with its casino proposal for Revere, but couldn’t come to terms with Wynn. Instead, Walsh insisted Wynn’s proposed Everett casino was partly located in Boston, meaning the city should be designated a host community to the casino and Charlestown residents should be given the opportunity to vote up or down on the gambling facility.

But the Gaming Commission ruled against Walsh, saying the proposed Wynn casino was entirely in Everett and Boston was only a surrounding community to the facility. After that ruling, Walsh largely withdrew from the licensing process and left it up to the Gaming Commission to determine how much mitigation money Wynn should pay the city. After the Gaming Commission awarded the casino license to Wynn and set the mitigation terms, Boston and Wynn officials began negotiating again in private to resolve traffic issues related to the casino.

But in filing Monday’s lawsuit, Walsh signaled that he would fight the proposed Everett casino rather than work with Wynn to resolve traffic and other concerns. “It has always been our belief that Boston is a host community,” Walsh said in a statement.

The lawsuit accuses the Gaming Commission of manipulating the outcome of the hearing at which Boston was determined to be a surrounding and not a host community to the proposed Everett casino. The lawsuit alleges the Gaming Commission withheld documents from the city and predetermined the outcome of the hearing in violation of the state’s Open Meeting Law.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Gaming Commission improperly awarded a casino license to Wynn even though some of the owners of the proposed casino property were convicted felons who had attempted to conceal their involvement.

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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.

The city’s lawsuit alleges Wynn needed to acquire all of the property for its proposed casino within 60 days of receiving its casino license. Wynn acquired the main parcel for the casino and hotel, but it is still waiting for the MBTA to approve its $6 million purchase of several adjacent parcels needed for the preferred entrance to the facility in Everett.

It appears all of the city’s allegations have been rejected by the Gaming Commission, which is why Walsh is now taking his case to Suffolk Superior Court.