Healey is right about Wynn casino
She's not playing politics or changing the rules of the game
THE VOTERS HAVE SPOKEN and, agree or disagree—and everyone knows I disagree—casinos are a reality in the Commonwealth. But that doesn’t mean casino operators, and those who regulate them, get to skirt the law or continuously adapt regulations to fit their needs and own timelines, as we have seen time and time again in the Greater Boston area licensing process.
Fortunately, in the last few days we’ve seen a frank and unabashed call from Attorney General Maura Healey to common sense, playing by the rules, and respecting laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (Check out a Q&A with Healey here.)
Yes, voters approved expanded gambling. They also elected Healey as Attorney General to make sure that the laws of the Commonwealth are respected and abided by. When she is wrongly accused of playing politics or that she’s somehow changing the rules in the middle of the game, it distracts us from what we should always keep in mind: The Attorney General is an elected guardian of the public good.
As such, Healey is seeking a thorough and independent review of the impacts that future casino traffic would have on our environment, our health, and our economy. She is pointing out the paramount importance of the independence and integrity of the traffic studies upon which mitigation plans will be built. She’s also calling for a regional approach to these studies and mitigation plans. Any traffic engineer will tell you that a congestion problem in one city quickly causes ripple effects throughout the regional network.
We cannot in good conscience rely on information produced by Wynn to understand the full impact that his proposed casino would have on our entire region. We need independent expert analysis, using all the tools at our disposal, because, once built, this casino will impact millions of residents in one of the most economically significant regions in the country.
We should be deeply concerned that throughout this licensing process and the Massachusetts environmental review process, the traffic impact information and analysis relied upon has mostly, if not entirely, come from Wynn. No surrounding community has the resources at its disposal, or will be allowed the time that Wynn has been given, to do such an analysis.
The Gaming Commission has let Wynn off the hook more than once. It took the rejection of not one but two of Wynn’s environmental impact reports to bring this fix to the forefront. Somerville has long disagreed with Wynn’s approach to traffic analysis. We were not heard once by the Gaming Commission. But don’t take it from me: I invite you to read Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton’s evaluation of Wynn’s supplemental environmental report.
And while Beaton’s rejection is a step in the right direction, it still doesn’t go far enough. Never mind the lack of regional foresight—Wynn’s study doesn’t adequately address roads that are yards from where he wants to build, let alone I-93. We, in Somerville, have been working for over a decade to create economic development, jobs, and transit access in Assembly Square and the eastern area of Somerville, and we fear that gridlock generated by the addition of the proposed casino will undermine those community investments made after years of prudent planning.
If we want to discuss changing the rules mid-way, let’s be honest and talk about the rules that the Gaming Commission and the state have changed for Wynn. Secretary Beaton clearly pointed out that the sale of MBTA land to Wynn took place before the environmental review was completed, thus violating state law. The Gaming Commission awarded the Region A casino license to Wynn before the environmental review was approved or even completed. Filing deadlines were missed without any consequences. Land transactions that were questionable at best didn’t stop the Gaming Commission from awarding Wynn a license, while Caesar’s was disqualified for allegedly having ties to organized crime.The pattern is there. It’s obvious. We should be honest and do what any responsible leaders should do: We must make sure that we don’t gamble our future away.
Joseph Curtatone is the mayor of Somerville, which is suing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in connection with its award of a casino license to Wynn Resorts.