A major expanded gaming hearing is set to take place in Boston before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) on Thursday, May 1, and it will feature an odd semi-alliance between the two warring casino developers, Mohegan Sun in Revere and Wynn in Everett.
Often at odds as of late due to the heated competition between the two proposals for one license, on the issue to be debated Thursday, they will both be arguing against the same enemy – the City of Boston, which is asserting it should have ‘host status’ for both projects.
Boston’s concerns became paramount earlier this month when the MGC took a trip on a tangent – delaying the timeline of a casino license award – to resolve Boston’s assertion that it should be a ‘host community’ in both the Revere casino (via Eastie) and the Everett casino (via Charlestown).
The tangent process has delayed the rewarding of a Greater Boston license indefinitely – with the MGC putting off the June 30 deadline.
On April 17, several parties put in legal briefs with arguments in their favor to the MGC. On April 24, last week, those briefs were allowed to be rebutted in writing by interested parties.
Now, on May 1, the MGC will discuss it all at a public meeting that is expected to last six hours.
According to the MGC agenda, licensing applicants will be able to offer oral presentations for a total of 30 minutes each. All others will get 15 minutes.
No one that has not submitted a brief will be allowed to speak.
Following the deliberation, the agenda stated that there would be a vote – though that could change if major questions arise.
“After discussion by the Commission, the Commission will announce its determination as to whether the City of Boston is a host community for each of the two proposals,” read the agenda. “After the conclusion of the hearing, the Commission will issue written findings that describe the respective gaming establishments for the projects the applicants have proposed.”
Boston’s Legal Department has submitted a brief that calls for numerous things, including a call for MGC Chair Steven Crosby to recuse himself from the process.
“Taken together, the pending federal lawsuit, recent Commission statements, current press articles, and the Commissions’ own actions, create a cloud over the proceedings when Chairman Crosby participates,” read the briefing from Elizabeth Dello Russo, Boston senior assistant corporate counsel. “Therefore, the City believes, in the best interest of a transparent process, that Chairman Crosby should recuse himself from all licensing matters in Region A.”
Boston also indicated that there have been rules and regulations permitted in Region A (Greater Boston) that have not applied to other regions. It took umbrage with the entire hearing process being played out this month.
Boston – in defense of Charlestown and concerning the Wynn proposal – took issue with the ongoing discussion of whether or not the Everett property is secretly tied to Revere’s Charlie Lightbody – who is a convicted felon and not allowed to profit from casino land sales under state law.
Lightbody has stated repeatedly he has nothing to do with the land and does not have anything to gain. However, MGC Commissioners have asked that the current owners sign an affidavit saying Lightbody, nor any other convicted felon, has a secret interest in the property.
That would have put the situation to rest, but one of the landowners this month refused to sign the affidavit on advice of an attorney.
Now, the City of Everett is proposing to buy the land at the already-determined price and then sell it to Wynn if that company receives a gaming license.
Boston said the situation is too static, and needs to be thoroughly investigated before awarding a license.
“Furthermore, the City believes that the issues must be investigated, if not resolved, before Region A decisions of any kind can be made,” read the Boston brief. “The City requests that all proceedings relating to licensure in Region A be postponed pending the Commission’s investigation into these matters. The City’s concern is that results of such investigation could impact licensure of the entire region, and that conducting a public hearing on Boston’s ‘host community’ status is premature and could be rendered moot as it appears that the applicant has failed to meet the requirements of the Commission’s conditional suitability determination. Decisions involving the Region A applicants cannot be made at this time given the uncertainly of the issues as raised in these articles (about the land ownership).”
Both Everett and Revere, as well as applicants Wynn and Mohegan, have submitted briefs disputing Boston’s contention that it is a host community under the gaming law.
Revere’s brief, penned by Attorney Brian Falk, argues the case that Revere has always approached the casino as if it were solely a Revere project – at least since last November when East Boston voted down the original casino proposal.
As an example, they cited the host community agreement with Mohegan Sun.
“Unlike the first Revere HCA, the second Revere HCA clearly identified a gaming establishment to be located solely in Revere,” read the brief. “The summaries used on the ballot at each of Revere’s host community referendums also describe the location of the proposed gaming establishment…Consistent with the second Revere HCA, the second ballot summary informed voters that the gaming establishment would be located solely in Revere.”
Revere also argued that the project is accessible from Revere and will rely on essential services from Revere.
First and foremost, Revere argued that the main and secondary vehicular entrances – on Furlong Drive and Winthrop Avenue – are located off of public ways located solely in Revere. Likewise, public transportation stations servicing the project – Beachmont Station in particular – are located in Revere.
To bolster the argument, Falk cited the fact that Revere will provide all water and sewer services to the project – something that is very different than the first project.
“For the reasons stated above, as well as the reasons set forth in Mohegan Sun’s memorandum, the City of Revere is the sole Host Community of the gaming establishment for which Mohegan Sun seeks approval in its…application,” concluded Revere’s brief. The meeting is slated to start at 10:30 a.m. and the host community question will lead off the proceedings.