Walsh’s waffling on casinos
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is a straight-shooter on most issues, but on casino gambling he’s tied up in knots.
He voted for casinos as a state legislator, but now he’s the mayor of Boston and there are two city neighborhoods — East Boston and Charlestown — where anti-casino sentiment is running high. Walsh doesn’t want to alienate those neighborhoods (or his union brothers and sisters who support casinos, for that matter), so he keeps waffling.
Walsh’s ideal solution would be to let voters in East Boston and Charlestown decide whether Boston should embrace gambling. That way the neighborhoods would be heard and he wouldn’t have to take a public position on the politically divisive issue of casinos. But the Massachusetts Gaming Commission hasn’t been cooperative; it hasn’t given him an easy way out.
Walsh initially wanted Boston to be considered a host community for proposed casinos in Revere and Everett, a designation that would have allowed East Boston and Charlestown to vote on the casino proposals. But the Gaming Commission shot that idea down by a 4-0 vote. Then the mayor asked the commission to put the entire casino licensing process on hold until November, when voters are scheduled to take up an initiative petition repealing the state gaming law. The commission also rejected that approach on a 4-0 vote, leaving Walsh with less and less wiggle room on upcoming casino licensing deadlines.
Walsh also announced on Thursday that he had failed to reach a surrounding community deal with Wynn Resorts, which wants to build a casino in Everett. But rather than go to arbitration with the hard-nosed Wynn, Walsh said he would leave it up to the Gaming Commission to decide what sort of mitigation payments the city deserves. In other words, punt the issue to the regulators; if they don’t return with a good deal, he can blame them — again — instead of himself.
What Walsh and many others involved in the casino licensing process have failed to realize is that the Gaming Commission’s job is to get casinos up and running in Massachusetts.The commissioners aren’t there to decide whether casinos are a good idea or not. State lawmakers, including Walsh, made that decision back in 2011. Now Walsh has to decide whether he’s still on board with that earlier decision.
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