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.
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.”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.