Last Thursday the Massachusetts Gaming Commission rejected the City of Boston’s petition to be considered a ‘Host Community,’ which would have entitled the city to a ward-only vote and a more lucrative community agreement.
While the city argued that both the Mohegan Sun proposal in Revere adjacent to the Suffolk Downs Racetrack in East Boston and the Wynn proposal in Everett would benefit from Boston roads and other amenities, the Gaming Commission ruled otherwise and designated Boston a surrounding community.
“I’m disappointed in today’s decision by the Gaming Commission,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “The Commission’s announcement seemed predetermined because after three hours of testimony, they only took ten minutes to arrive at a decision. I have said — and I truly believe — that Boston is a host community to both sites, and I intend to continue to do everything in my power to protect our best interests. The people of East Boston and Charlestown deserve the opportunity to vote. I will meet with my legal team to evaluate all of the options available to us right now. We have not made a decision about our next step, but we will share developments as they are available.”
At last Thursday’s hearing city lawyers said that both Mohegan and Wynn would benefit from the city’s numerous amenities and infrastructure like Logan Airport in Eastie. The city also argued that Mohegan’s project is linked to Suffolk Downs. Two thirds of the historic racetrack is within Eastie’s border.
Eastie voters rejected the casino plan in November paving the way for Suffolk Downs’ ownership and Mohegan to simply move the casino project to the Revere side of the property where voters approved a casino plan.
“Based on the ambiguous and arbitrary process the Gaming Commission has pursued, we believe that we have multiple options available to us at this time,” said Walsh. “We are continuing to work aggressively to determine the appropriate action to continue our fight for the people of Boston. My position has not changed: Boston is a host community to both sites, and the people of Boston — of Charlestown and East Boston — deserve the opportunity to vote and have their voices heard.”
Mitchell Etess, CEO of Mohegan Tribal gaming Authority said his group remains committed to continuing the productive discussions they’ve had with the City of Boston, and to reaching a comprehensive surrounding community agreement, as they have with eight other neighboring communities.
“We also look forward to continuing to work cooperatively with the Gaming Commission and demonstrating that Mohegan Sun is the best choice for Massachusetts,” he said.
Chip Tuttle, COO of Suffolk Downs said in addition to Mohegan Sun’s discussions with the City of Boston, Suffolk Downs is committed to working with Mayor Walsh and his team on a master plan for the Boston portion of our property that preserves the track’s 79-year legacy as a local sports and entertainment venue while providing an opportunity for additional economic development for the city.
At the start of last week’s hearing, Gaming Commission Chairman, Stephen Crosby recused himself from voting on the Region A casino license after photos surfaced of the chairman attending a VIP Party at Suffolk Down’s opening day celebration and Kentucky Derby simulcast.
In a statement before last week’s hearing, Crosby said “I have said repeatedly over my 2 years as Chair of the Gaming Commission that the single highest priority for our work is that we protect the integrity of the decision making process. And I have also said repeatedly that the appearance of integrity as well as the reality of integrity is critical. Over the past several months, my behavior and judgment concerning the parties to the Region A decision has been questioned, sometimes in good faith, sometimes in bad faith. Frankly, neither I nor any of the Commissioners have any doubt about my ability to be impartial in the decision making process. But the compounding of these issues has now gotten to the point where my participation in the decision making process has become a distraction and a potential threat to our critical appearance of total impartiality. I want to take this opportunity to note the extraordinary amount of hard work and dedication that has resulted in the considerable progress and accomplishment achieved by the Commission and its staff since we embarked on the implementation of an incredibly complex licensing process and the establishment of a new state agency. I will not allow anything to distract or discredit that comprehensive effort. Therefore, I have decided to recuse myself from any further involvement in any of the issues concerning the licensing decision for Region A. For those discussions, Commissioner Jim McHugh will act as Chair of the Commission and my decision will have no impact on the schedule for Region A.”
Meanwhile, members of No Eastie Casino and Repeal the Casino Deal were at Monday night’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association to collect signatures from resident to get a casino repeal question on the state ballot in November.
No Eastie Casino lawyer, Matt Cameron, and Eastie resident Brian Gannon said they have 73,000 signatures and need 11,000 more. Whether or not a repeal question will appear on the state ballot is now in the hands of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court who will rule on the argument by the summer.