The Waiting Game: Hurry Up Boston; Rizzo, Others Frustrated with Casino Delay

June 5, 2013
By

There’s a big donut hanging in the way of Boston and the completion of its long-awaited host community agreement, and despite that donut being across City Lines from Revere, it’s clogging a lot of arteries on both sides of the line.

Mayor Dan Rizzo has been very supportive of the efforts by Boston Mayor Tom Menino – and vice versa – for the duration of the host community negotiation process. In fact, the two mayors have worked so well together that they’ve forged a unique friendship. However, this week Rizzo said he is growing impatient with Boston – and he’s joining a long list of elected officials who have been grumbling privately for months.

“When I see how many people in Revere are in desperate need of a job, and as state aid continues to dry up – we have a net loss of close to $250,000 as compared to last year – it’s beginning to get frustrating to see this process drag on,” he said. “The Legislature had it right in keeping the tax rate at 25 percent because they recognize that businesses – regardless of whether they’re a manufacturer, a service organization, or a casino – still need to make a profit to be viable. It does no one any good to put them out of business before they open their doors by having unrealistic expectations or demands. This is about jobs, it’s about helping our local economy, and it’s about creating collateral investment opportunities. This will not happen if we can’t get to the point where an application can be submitted. If this were any other type of development, it would be hard for me to believe it would take this long to mitigate. Like I said, it’s extremely frustrating.”

And having that application submitted is becoming ever more critical every day that passes without a signed host community agreement.

Revere announced in late March that it had concluded negotiations with Suffolk Downs and was waiting to compare notes with Boston. Both, Rizzo said at the time, would sign their agreements at the same time after doing comparisons. At that time, it was believed Boston’s agreement would be hammered out quickly.

It wasn’t.

And a prepared City of Revere continues to wait.

Now, casino developer Steve Wynn’s proposal in Everett is putting major pressure on Suffolk Downs as the track’s proposal seems to be falling way behind in the backstretch – getting tangled up in Boston mayoral politics and stalemates over mitigation monies.

Everett signed its agreement with Wynn weeks ago and will have a community referendum vote on that package later this month. It is expected to pass overwhelmingly and has garnered support from all corners – including abutters to the project who live on the Rt. 99 corridor.

If host community agreements were completed this week, it would likely trigger a vote in early August. Anything later than the next few weeks would threaten to leak into September – dangerously close to a municipal election in Revere and a gigantic mayoral preliminary election in Boston. Likewise, it’s also dangerously close to the date that Phase II applications will begin to be accepted. Phase II applications will be accepted by the state Gaming Commission from October to January 2014. Most applicants are fighting to have those applications in at the earliest point possible.

One state official, speaking off the record, indicated that the hold up was how much money the track would have to pay Boston. It is said that Boston isn’t interested in compromising on that number and the track cannot reasonably afford what is being demanded.

On Monday, during a state Economic Development tour geared towards the press, Rizzo told State Secretary for Economic Development Greg Bialecki that he was frustrated with Boston and Mayor Menino on this issue.

“People come in to my office all the time asking me for a job at the new casino,” he said. “My pat answer is I tell them to fill out an application, but don’t give it to me, give it to Tom Menino because apparently he has plenty of jobs in Boston and can afford to wait on a casino.”

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