Casino Licensing Pushed Back Again Indefinitely

Waiting seems to be the name of the game when it comes to gaming in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) announced last Friday that it would be delaying the award of a Greater Boston resort casino license indefinitely. The timeline to award a casino license in Greater Boston has steadily moved back for the last year, and most recently it sat at June 30.

However, previously, the deadline had been in late 2013, then in February 2014 and April 2014 and then mid-May 2014. The Commission finally settled on June 30 two months ago.

The pushback would affect both the Revere and Everett casino proposals – both of which have Chelsea classified as Surrounding Communities.

This time, the delay comes at the behest of new Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and East Boston/Charlestown City Councillor Sal LaMattina. Both have petitioned the MGC via City of Boston attorneys for Boston to have the right to be a host community due to the major impacts a casino in Revere or Everett would have on Boston. Using what many believe to be a loophole in the gaming law, Walsh has said Boston might qualify as a host City.

Walsh and LaMattina are also calling for another referendum vote to be held. One for the Mohegan proposal in Eastie and another for the Wynn proposal in Charlestown.

“As a City Councillor who represents District 1 (in Boston), I have to do what’s right for my district,” LaMattina told the East Boston Times. “Today, I would like to go on record in support of Mayor Walsh in his quest to achieve host community status. My reasoning on this is very clear; Mohegan Sun may be building the entire project in the City of Revere, but the City of Boston plays an integral and vital  role to the success of the establishment.

“…My neighborhood will still be as heavily impacted as the original proposal,” he continued, referencing Mohegan’s project. “I have to agree with Mayor Walsh that Boston will be the key selling point of the proposed casino in Revere. All the branding will be Boston. All the marketing for the casino  will be Boston. A major attraction to this casino will be Boston.”

All of that was discussed at last Thursday’s MGC meeting in great depth, and Commissioners voted unanimously to hold a public meeting on May 1 regarding the “determination of the premises of the gaming establishment for which Mohegan Sun Massachusetts, LLC and Wynn MA, LLC seeks approval in their…applications.”

More importantly, the MGC ruled that this cog in the wheel will once again cause them to extend the timeline on awarding the license.

“This will result in the final decision on the Region A license being delayed to an undetermined date,” read the Commission’s decision.

The MGC is also soliciting public comment in the form of legal briefs prior to the May 1 hearing. It specified the briefs should state the reasons for the positions taken, identify supporting legal authorities, and include any sworn affidavits, authenticated documents, and other relevant evidence not otherwise included in a casino application. The briefs are limited to 15 pages, and are due on April 17.

Any responses or replies to those filed briefs can also be submitted to the MGC, and are due by April 24.

Representatives from Mohegan Sun said, “Our discussions with Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston have been positive, and we understand the importance of working closely with the communities impacted by our project,” said Mohegan CEO Mitchell Etess. “We will continue to work with the Gaming Commission on the timeline they have established. Mohegan Sun Massachusetts’ construction timetable is still far ahead of the Everett proposal meaning that we would deliver thousands of jobs and millions in revenue more quickly to the Commonwealth.”

Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo said he doesn’t blame Mayor Walsh for holding up the process, saying it is important to be thorough.

“I completely understand Mayor Walsh’s desire to do his due diligence prior to entering into any agreement pertaining to casino gaming that would impact the City of Boston,” said Rizzo. “I look forward to working with Mayor Walsh and the residents of East Boston in creating a first-class gaming establishment in Revere, while saving close to 1,000 jobs at Suffolk Downs.”

At the same time, Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs are having to deal with a ruling by state environmental regulators last week that said the project will have to go through a longer environmental process than expected.

Richard Sullivan, the state secretary for environmental affairs, recently ruled that the project would have to submit a supplemental draft environmental impact report (SEIR) – which means the project cannot continue under the old project’s environmental permitting process. Sullivan has asked that Mohegan submit additional data on things like traffic, to public transportation and flooding issues.

Mohegan officials have said they expect the additional process to only last another month or so longer than they expected.

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