Milford casino no longer dark horse

Today’s Globe provides an update on Milford’s proposed Foxwoods casino. This is an unfortunate development for partisans of Steve Wynn and Suffolk Downs, because it’s a reminder that when the state Gaming Commission hands out its eastern Massachusetts casino license next year, the commission actually has a choice other than Everett or East Boston. And if neither East Boston nor Everett are inevitable, the whole calculus behind the politicking around the two urban casinos falls apart.

The Milford site, controlled by developer David Nunes, has long been a dark horse in the state’s casino sweepstakes. Just a year ago, the CEO of Caesars, the prospective operating partner at Suffolk, was swatting Milford away like an overactive puppy. Back then, Wynn didn’t have a workable casino site, and Nunes had land, but not a casino operator or a financing partner. Suffolk Downs had a sheen of inevitability around it. That sheen has worn off, mostly as Suffolk and Wynn, and their respective political patrons, have engaged in an increasingly heated war of words. The heat around Wynn versus Suffolk, which is really Wynn versus Boston’s Mayor for Life, has overshadowed anything happening way off in the woods off Interstate 495. But what’s happening in the Milford woods is as much a treat as any weirdly tanned billionaire could be.
 
While Menino tries to bludgeon Wynn with a spit of polluted land in Charlestown he just rediscovered, Nunes has been quietly putting together a legitimate casino bid in Milford. He secured Foxwoods as an investor and operator. And, the Globe reports today, he’s methodically moving toward securing a mitigation package with his host community — something Suffolk Downs still doesn’t have. Milford’s selectmen are milling over a draft mitigation package that would see the casino pay $18 million in annual property taxes, as well as make other one-time payments to the municipality. The agreement looks on track for an early November referendum, and a Town Meeting vote following closely behind.
 
Up until now, Suffolk Downs’ main selling point has been the inevitability of an urban casino landing either in or just outside Boston. Most of the candidates lining up to succeed Menino have jumped on board with Suffolk, even though not all have done so enthusiastically. The logic has been that, if it’s a race between Everett and East Boston, the facility might as well go in Eastie, because at least then, the city could get a piece of the financial action. Just one candidate, Bill Walczak, has come out against a Suffolk casino outright.
 
As Milford’s bid advances, though, the fault lines should begin shifting from an Everett versus Eastie showdown, to the question of whether one of the country’s most liberal cities wants to be anywhere near a casino at all. There’s ample evidence indicating that a casino, whether it’s near the Chelsea Creek or the Mystic River, would magnify the social and economic downside that comes with casino gambling. As CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas previously wrote, problem gamblers — those suffering from moderate or severe gambling addiction — represent a tiny sliver of the population living around a casino, but they’re responsible for 35 percent of casino revenues. The casino business model is addiction. And addiction follows proximity to a casino; the closer people live to a casino, the more likely they are to get addicted. So if a community sitting way off I-495 wants to get involved in this business, why would Boston want to stop them?

–PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

Common Cause urges the state Ethics Commission to revisit its decision barring Sen. Dan Wolf from holding office and owning a large chunk of Cape Air, the Associated Press reports (via WBUR). The state director of the National Federation of Independent Business is also calling for the Ethics Commission to rethink its ruling; he claims it will have a “chilling effect.”

Adam Reilly profiles Doug Rubin for Boston magazine. Reilly calls Rubin, who helped orchestrate the campaigns of Deval Patrick, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Kennedy III, “the closest thing Massachusetts Democrats have right now to an indispensable man.”
 
Unlocking State House secrets — for real.
 
MUNICIPAL MATTERS
 
CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow, in his weekly Globe column, details the pointless efforts by some Jamaica Plain residents to thwart a new residential development that they can’t really stop.
 
MIT students are about to launch HelmetHub, a business that will offer helmets for rent at kiosks next to bike rental locations in Boston, Governing reports.
 
Boston landlords aren’t happy with a new ordinance requiring them to register rental units with the city — and pay a fee for doing so.
 
State regulators suspend the liquor license of Club Passe-Temps in Lowell after the manager kicked investigators off the premises after they discovered devices often used in connection with illegal gaming activities, the Sun reports.
 
Leominster passes a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.
 
The Herald piggybacks off an Eagle Tribune story on Lawrence’s ineffectual redevelopment authority to call the city “Massachusetts’ own Detroit wannabe.” The editorial says the people of Lawrence deserve better than Mayor William Lantigua’s “mockery of governance.” 

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON
 
The alleged chemical weapons attack on Syrians just outside Damascus came in the middle of the night, and many of the victims never made it out of their beds, the New York Times reports. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the attack and the US is reportedly planning some sort of military response, the Washington Post reports.
 
Former Reagan aide Jeffrey Lord says Scott Brown and other GOP moderates have it wrong when they claim the late president wouldn’t fit in with today’s Republican conservatism.
 
NPR explores the flaws in the way the US government decides if someone is poor enough to qualify for federal benefits.
 
The Atlantic asks whether millennials can change politics if they’ve grown up hating politics.
 
Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg both can’t stand the direction the Supreme Court is headed in.
 
Scott Brown goes on a Twitter blocking bender.
 
ELECTIONS
 
The Boston mayoral candidates are split on whether the city should help fund the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, but not on whether the South Boston Postal Annex should be taken down to allow expansion of South Station, CommonWealth reports.
 
The Globe reports that mayoral hopefuls Mike Ross and Bill Walczak are out with their first TV ads.
 
A Quincy city councilor running for reelection wants his opponent to agree to forego lawn signs, saying voters are suffering from “election fatigue.”
 
Christine Quinn tries to Cory Booker the New York mayor’s race, swinging into action when supporters faint.
 
BUSINESS/ECONOMY
 
Liberty Mutual is cutting retirement benefits for its 38,000 employees — just after the retirement of former CEO Ted Kelly, who earned $200 million in over his last four years at the insurer.
 
Keller@Large says keep the penny, if only for the lessons the coin teaches.
 
EDUCATION
 
Children at four elementary schools in Salem will eat breakfast at their desks this year as part of a pilot program aimed at improving child learning, the Salem News reports.
 
The New Bedford schools superintendent and the city’s teachers’ union are at odds over a plan for extended days at two of the city’s failing schools.
 
The Braintree School Committee voted to bar out-of-towners from the annual homecoming dance next month.
 
The New York Times looks at the purposefully short career arc of charter school teachers.
 
HEALTH CARE
 
A Plymouth County man is the first person in the state this year to be diagnosed with West Nile virus.
 
Boston officials want to be able to inspect dispensaries approved to distribute “medical marijuana” in the city.
 
ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT
 
James Bride of Energy Tariff Experts details the cost to ratepayers of the state’s renewable energy programs in an article for CommonWealth.
 
Researchers say the increased acidification of the planet’s oceans could accelerate global warming as the seas lose their ability to cool off the atmosphere.
 
Forget sharks and tourists, seals are getting grief from fishermen for, wait for it, eating fish.
 
A sinkhole grows in Holyoke.
 
LEGAL AFFAIRS/CRIMINAL JUSTICE
 
Several court officers at Chelsea District Court are hurt after the brother of a murder victim goes on a rampage at the arraignment of the alleged killer, the Item reports.
 
An Australian record company has poked the bear by tangling with Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, an expert in Internet law and advocate for fewer restrictions on the use of copyrighted material. (More recently, Lessig has turned to the corrupting power of money in politics, a topic explored earlier this year in this Conversation interview in CommonWealth.)
 
MEDIA
 
US Rep. John Lewis, the veteran civil rights leader, conquers best-seller lists with his graphic novel debut, March, about his experiences in the fight for equal rights for African Americans.

The Onion offers an amusing take on why the Miley Cyrus raunch-fest played so prominently on CNN.