Walsh-Wynn disconnect

Boston’s mayor tries to ramp up last minute talks with casino developers

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is trying to ramp up last-minute negotiations with the area’s casino developers, but so far he’s not having much luck with Wynn Enterprises.

Walsh says Wynn, the company proposing to build a casino in Everett, refused to attend a meeting with him scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. But Wynn officials say it was the mayor’s staff that dropped the ball on the meeting. Meanwhile, Mohegan Sun/Brigade Capital, the team that wants to build a casino on the Revere portion of Suffolk Downs, is set to meet with Walsh on Wednesday.

The mayor is facing a Thursday deadline from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which is preparing to rule on whether Boston should be designated a host community to the two proposed Greater Boston casinos along with Everett and Revere. The commission was scheduled to make a decision last Thursday, but Walsh won a reprieve at the last minute by having Gov. Deval Patrick call Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby to ask for a seven-day delay. A Patrick spokeswoman said Walsh conveyed to the governor that he was in active negotiations with both casino developers and deals were near, but both companies said they hadn’t heard from the mayor in two weeks or more.

With time running out, Walsh has lined up a meeting with Mohegan Sun/Brigade Capital but a meeting on Tuesday afternoon with Wynn officials never materialized. At a groundbreaking for a building in Chinatown on Tuesday, Walsh said Wynn officials declined to attend the meeting. “They said no to someone who works with me,” Walsh said. Asked what explanation Wynn officials gave for turning down a meeting with the mayor, Walsh said: “Let them tell you.”

Wynn representatives say they were indirectly approached late last week about a meeting but did not have a direct conversation with Eugene O’Flaherty, the mayor’s corporation counsel, until late Monday afternoon. The Wynn representatives say they told O’Flaherty they would be glad to meet with the mayor but stressed that they would only discuss a surrounding community agreement with him. The Wynn representatives said O’Flaherty told them he understood and promised to get back to them, but never called back.

“We’ve always been ready and willing to meet with the mayor any time for as long as it takes for a surrounding community agreement,” said Stephen Tocco, a Wynn representative.

Walsh has been pushing for host community status for Boston at both casinos, which would give the city greater leverage in negotiating mitigation payments from the developers. Host community status would give residents of East Boston and Charlestown the opportunity to vote on the casinos at their doorsteps and decide whether the projects should proceed or not.

Despite the claims of the casino developers that they had not heard from the city the past two weeks, Walsh on Tuesday made it sound as if negotiations have been ongoing. “We’re moving toward an agreement,” he said, but then added that an agreement could not be hammered out in an hour.

Asked if the casino developers were lying about not hearing from the city, Walsh said: “No one’s lying. I think everyone is misleading each other in the press.”

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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.

Mohegan Sun/Brigade Capital issued a statement on Tuesday saying the companies are eager to work with Walsh. “We look forward to meeting with Mayor Walsh and his staff to continue what in the past have been productive conversations,” the statement said. The statement did not address whether Mohegan Sun/Brigade Capital would be open to the idea of discussing host community status for Boston.

Last week, Walsh reached out to Patrick in seeking a week-long delay at the Gaming Commission. Asked why he didn’t call Crosby himself to seek the delay, Walsh said: “Because I called the governor.” He also said he hadn’t made up his mind about whether he would file a lawsuit against the Gaming Commission if it ruled Boston wasn’t entitled to host community status.