A last minute plea to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) by the City late last month fell on deaf ears as the Commission ruled that the Wynn Surrounding Community Agreement (SCA) – though far from what Chelsea had requested – will stand.
While the City inked one of the most lucrative SCA’s in the state with Revere’s Mohegan Sun, it was far from repeating the same result with Everett’s Wynn after a month-long series of state arbitration meetings. Those meetings ended in mid-June, with the MGC’s arbiter siding with Wynn and shorting the City’s requests significantly on transportation, public safety and education. Most notably, the City got absolutely nothing from the Wynn SCA to mitigate schools and social impacts.
“After hearing both parties and considering the evidence, the Arbitrator selects the Best and Final Offer of Wynn,” wrote Arbitrator Stephen Neel in his June 9 decision, which was officially accepted last Thursday.
The late June request for a vote at the MGC meeting was a final effort by the City to strike a better bargain, and now the only recourse if Wynn gets the casino license would be for the City to petition the MGC after the fact.
City Manager Jay Ash was particularly soured on the entire process – both the negotiations with Wynn and the MGC’s arbitration process.
“I remain disappointed with both the results of the arbitration process and the continue position of Wynn Resorts regarding potential impacts to the community from their proposed casino in Everett,” said Ash. “Mohegan Sun has acknowledged those potential impacts and have agreed to work very closely with us to address them upfront. The position we are left in by the Wynn compact and the arbitration process is to petition the MGC after the impacts have occurred, which is absolutely ridiculous. Even if we are successful in petitioning the MGC after the fact, we can never go back and resolve the impacts, which could include crime, addiction and traffic, that would have made our petition successful in the first place. The situation about dealing with regional impacts is just one of many reasons why I believe the Mohegan Sun proposal is far superior to that of Wynn.”
Chelsea and Wynn had been negotiating an SCA for quite some time, but never could get the numbers even close to matching. That led to a state-mandated arbitration process that began in late April and continued with six meetings between the two parties and the arbiter.
On most every point, the arbiter agreed that Chelsea was overstating the impacts of the Wynn casino.
The greatest difference was an up front, one time $1.55 million traffic payment to Chelsea to mitigate five intersections – including Marginal/Pearl, Williams/Broadway, Williams/Spruce, Parkway/Webster, and Parkway/Everett Avenue. Instead of the amount Chelsea had requested, the arbiter agreed with the Wynn proposal of $300,000 for the five intersections – a difference of $1.25 million.
“After reviewing the evidence relating to traffic and transportation impacts…the impact posed by the Wynn casino on traffic at those [five] intersections will, at worst, be limited,” wrote Neel.
Beyond that, Chelsea had requested an annual payment of $250,000 to be used at its discretion for roadway improvements. Wynn had proposed $225,000, which was accepted and not nearly as far off the mark.
As it related to public safety, the arbiter doubted completely that additional crime would spill over to Chelsea as a result of casino in Everett. He indicated that Chelsea already had plenty of police officers (106 right now) and the proposed mitigation payment of $250,000 annually would be more than enough to mitigate any additional crime and add about three new officers.
Chelsea had proposed a $700,000 annual payment for public safety and a $50,000 first responder fee, for a total of $750,000.
“The Arbitrator concludes that the Wynn casino’s security force, working with the Everett Police Department, will adequately manage any crime resulting in the immediate area of Everett from the Wynn casino; that patrons of the Wynn casino will not in any significant numbers travel three-quarters of a mile by foot form the Wynn casino property to Chelsea through an industrial area that separates the two; that some Wynn casino patrons will stay at hotels existing or to be built in Chelsea, and will travel by vehicle to and rom the Wynn casino; that the additional patrons and tourists drawn to Chelsea by the Wynn casino will cause some increase in the volume, but not the rate, of property crimes in Chelsea,” he wrote. “Even though a significant percentage of Chelsea’s residents are undocumented immigrants, the Wynn casino will create a significant number of jobs in Chelsea. As Chelsea’s unemployment decreases, crime will decrease also. The Wynn casino does not pose a significant increase in violent crime in Chelsea.”
It was also noted that the numbers of officers on the Chelsea force is already mitigation enough for any uptick in crime.
“The new hotels in Chelsea provided part of the rationale for the increase in the [Chief’s] force,” read the report. “Thus, any increase in tourists staying in Chelsea hotels, drawn by the Wynn casino or otherwise, has already been partially mitigated by the recent addition of officers to the CPD.”
However, the biggest shock of all came in the City’s request for mitigation of the schools and social impacts. The City had requested $850,000 annually to mitigate the schools and for social programs, and the arbitrator gave the City nothing.
The arbiter wrote that problems in the schools are caused by other situations and the proposed casino would not decrease nor increase those problems.
“The arbitrator concludes that the educational and social conditions described by Supt. Mary Bourque, City Manager Jay Ash and others are and will continue to be caused by conditions other than impacts posed by the Wynn casino,” wrote Neel. “The $700,000 school program payment proposed by Chelsea does not fairly and reasonably address the educational impact posed by the Wynn casino, and renders the total educational and social impact payments requested by Chelsea excessive.”
The final SCA between Chelsea and Wynn includes the following:
•$75,000 annual payment to enable Chelsea to develop initiatives to prepare local businesses to take advantage of the opportunities provided by Wynn.
•Wynn will purchase $2.5 million of goods and services annually from vendors with principle places of business in Chelsea.
•Create a Concierge Program that will cross market local businesses in the Wynn property via the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.
•While there is no specific local hiring target numbers, Chelsea will have secondary preference with other SCA communities. Everett and Malden will have primary hiring designations.
•One time payment of $300,000 for improvement of the five intersections discussed above.
•Annual payment of $225,000 to mitigate traffic and roads.
•$250,000 to mitigate public safety and pedestrian traffic increases, to be used at the sole discretion of the City.
•Annual payment of $100,000 in to the Chelsea Community Fund to support cultural events, street fairs, art shows, festivals and other activities.
The agreement would only go into effect if Wynn Resorts prevails in obtaining a casino license, and if the state votes down the gaming repeal question that will be on the November ballot.
Chelsea can only re-open the agreement if impacts appear that are not foreseen in the agreement.