Local Officials Ponder: Mohegan Sun Agreement

July 25, 2014
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With East Boston set to receive $18 million a year and another $30 million over 10 years for capital projects under the recently signed surrounding community agreement between Mohegan Sun and the City of Boston, the neighborhood’s elected officials are reacting to the agreement this week.

“This was a difficult decision, but I have a responsibility as the Mayor of Boston to protect the best interests of our City, and of those in the neighborhood most impacted by this proposal,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “Mohegan Sun has engaged fully with our team and with this City, with a clear intent to be a good neighbor to our community. I appreciate their willingness to come to the table and work together on a deal that supports and strengthens Boston’s infrastructure and economy.”

State Representative Carlo Basile said that while he was disappointed that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission insists on moving forward with issuing casino licenses before the people got a chance to vote this fall he was confident that Walsh got the best deal he could for the people of Eastie.

“There are many points within the agreement that will benefit our community, but I am especially happy to hear of the $30 million which will spent in East Boston specifically,” said Basile. “I am also happy with the proposal to retain the voice of the people and the call for another vote should there be any gaming development proposed in East Boston. I want to thank Mayor Walsh for his leadership on this difficult issue and for protecting the interests and preserving the voice of the people of East Boston.”

Walsh signed the Surrounding Community Agreement with Mohegan Sun on Friday, July 11. The deal provides for an estimated $300 million in investments in Boston over a 15-year period. With this agreement, Mohegan Sun Massachusetts will invest $45M in transportation improvements to the City of Boston and the area surrounding the casino site. The City of Boston will receive $30M over 10 years for local capital projects in Eastie, and will receive a minimum of $18 million annually to mitigate the community impact of the casino development. This community impact annual payment will increase based on gross gaming revenue calculated in a given year.

“Whether you are for or against the proposed Mohegan Sun Casino, you must agree that Mayor Walsh has looked out for the best interests of the people of East Boston every step of the way since he has become mayor,” said Senator Anthony Petruccelli. “I applaud him for signing a surrounding community agreement that rivals the benefits of any other host or surrounding agreements in the Commonwealth.”

In addition, Mohegan has pledged to use local vendors for goods and services for their facilities, which will inject upwards of $50 million into the Boston economy. Mohegan has also pledged to give preference to Eastie residents when hiring to fill positions in the construction phase of the plan, and in the jobs that become available with the casino and its affiliates upon opening.

If there is an attempt to introduce a gaming- or casino-related facility in any part of property located in Eastie, Mohegan agrees to address Boston as a host community as they engage in the plans. This will immediately trigger a vote for community members, and a discussion of new, revised mitigation as a host community.

“I commend Mayor Walsh for negotiating an extremely favorable deal on behalf of the City of Boston. He and I fought tirelessly for host community status to allow the people of East Boston the chance to vote again on this important issue,” said City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “Unfortunately, the Gaming Commission didn’t agree with us. If a casino is ultimately coming to Suffolk Downs, I believe that East Boston should receive as good a deal as any other surrounding community because it will receive the bulk of the impacts. It’s been my experience that the City never has great results when it goes through the arbitration process. In comparison to the deal that the Wynn development has proposed to us, this Mohegan Sun deal will be extremely beneficial to the City and especially East Boston. It will provide many needed jobs, traffic improvements as well as the capital needed to update and rehab some of our parks and buildings.”

As part and parcel of the transaction, the City of Boston also signed an agreement with Suffolk Downs, which will preserve hundreds of jobs and secure revenue through continued property and real estate taxes. Suffolk Downs has agreed that they will keep their track open for the duration of the casino license for Region A.

In addition, if Suffolk Downs begins any reconstruction or revitalization of their property, the City of Boston will serve in a master planning and oversight role. The agreement calls for the Boston Redevelopment Authority and Suffolk Downs to begin a comprehensive development planning process for the Boston side of the property, which is approximately 100 acres. The terms of the agreement also require Suffolk Downs to continue to operate its racing facility for at least the initial 15-year term of a gaming license, should Mohegan Sun be awarded that license, mirroring the commitment Suffolk Downs made to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in its letter of January of this year.

“We look forward to working with Mayor Walsh and his team on a master plan that preserves the 79-year tradition of racing here while enhancing our property and creating additional jobs and revenue for Boston,” said William Mulrow, Chairman of Sterling Suffolk Racecourse. “In our conversations over the last several months, Mayor Walsh made it clear that he expects improvements on the Boston side of the property that align with the substantial investment that Mohegan Sun will make in Revere should it earn a license. We are committed to working with the City to ensure that Boston reaps additional development benefits at our property.”

As part of the master planning process, Suffolk Downs will look at complementary non-gaming development opportunities on the Boston property along with improvements to the track’s main entrance and the portion of the Suffolk Downs property that abuts the Waldemar Avenue neighborhood in East Boston, including the area near the Suffolk Downs MBTA station, track officials indicated.

“We are very happy to memorialize our ongoing commitment to Thoroughbred racing, our workforce and the hundreds of small businesses and family farms that depend on the Massachusetts horse racing industry in our agreement with the City of Boston,” said Chip Tuttle, Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer. “We look forward to working with the City to fulfill our ownership’s vision here if for a more modern, major-league racing facility and customer experience.”

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