City officials say ‘no dice’ to casino

On July 3, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Voice opposition to Everett proposal
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This image, taken from the Wynn Everett website, shows an architect’s rendering of the casino complex that Wynn Resorts plans to build on the Everett shore of the Mystic River.

By Elizabeth Sheeran

When it comes to plans for a resort casino on the Mystic River, Somerville’s elected officials say the city’s being dealt a bad hand.

Everett voters recently approved a proposal by Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts to build a 550-room, 19-story resort casino complex on the riverfront just across the Mystic from Somerville’s Assembly Row development. The plan still has to face off against two competing bids for the one available resort casino license in this part of the state. But the June 22 referendum victory in Everett increases the odds in Wynn’s favor.

“There will be impacts on this community if a huge Las Vegas-style casino comes right next door, to Everett,” said Ward Six Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz at last week’s meeting of the Board of Alderman, which formally requested updates from the administration on the potential impacts of a casino on Somerville’s doorstep, as well as efforts to mitigate those impacts or oppose it outright.

Gewirtz was among a majority of the board who voiced strong opposition to the Everett casino proposal, seeing nothing but negative impacts for Somerville. Members said the project would create traffic headaches, and several spoke of the problem of gambling addiction. But the greatest concern was around the economic impact.

“There is startling evidence about how damaging casinos are to local businesses,” said Gewirtz. She said resort casinos are designed as self-contained complexes with their own restaurants and retail outlets which keep spending inside the resort and away from surrounding businesses.

“These casinos have become shopping mega-malls,” said Ward Four Alderman Tony Lafuente. He said competitive retail outlets are part of casino developer Steve Wynn’s business model. “The Wynn Casino in Las Vegas has a Ferrari dealership. He sells more Ferraris out of his casino than any other Ferrari dealership in the country. I would bet he’s going to compete directly with what we’re going to do in Assembly Square.”

Several aldermen said a casino just a few hundred yards from the Assembly Row waterfront would hurt plans to develop the area with a mix of retail and residences. “It’s going to be staring them in the face,” said Ward Seven Alderman Robert Trane. “We’re talking about high-end nice condos down at Assembly Square. Do you want to be sitting there looking out at the bright lights of this casino directly across the river?”

Trane said it was understandable Everett voters approved the plan because it takes a blighted, polluted former chemical plant location and turns it into tax-generating property for them. He said Everett had little to lose because their side of the river wasn’t otherwise being actively developed. “But we’re the ones that are going to see the negative impact because we did good planning, we thought ahead,” said Trane.

Board members were unhappy that Somerville has to date had little input into what is being proposed in Everett. “It amazes me how one city can decide the fate of an entire region. It’s going to negatively impact everyone, not just Everett. I think it’s an outrage,” said Alderman-At-Large Dennis Sullivan. The board talked of working with Medford and other neighbors to press the concerns of surrounding communities.

According to Elaine Driscoll of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which will decide where to award the resort casino license on behalf of the state, the application requires an agreement and positive referendum with the host community, and Wynn’s Everett proposal is the only one in the region that has completed that requirement so far. But the successful applicant is also supposed to work out so-called “mitigation agreements” with all communities surrounding the casino location.

Final applications are due to the Gaming Commission by December 31, then applicants have another 30 days to negotiate signed agreements with surrounding communities. If no such agreement is reached, the matter will go to arbitration before the five-member commission. “Ultimately, the Gaming Commission will make a decision on what the agreement will be, if the surrounding communities and the applicants are unable to agree,” said Driscoll.

She said the Gaming Commission ombudsmen and other state resources, such as regional planning authorities, are available to assist both communities and applicants in working out the terms of mitigation agreements. But the intent is for communities to work things out directly with the casino developers.

Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who has been an outspoken opponent of the Everett casino, said Wynn Resorts representatives had recently met with him to discuss their plans. He said the meeting was courteous and professional, and Wynn shared some data from traffic and environmental studies. But they did not begin talks about any kind of potential mitigation agreement. Nor did the meeting change the mayor’s stance on the project.

“I reiterated my position in opposition to casinos in general and this one in particular,” said Mayor Curtatone. “I have no intention of backing down from that and they understand that.”

The Mayor said he plans to meet with the Board of Aldermen soon to brief them on the meeting with Wynn, and to discuss possible next steps. “We have a responsibility to the community to exercise our full rights under the law, with respect to either mitigation or opposition,” said the mayor. “Casinos don’t build communities. They tear them down.”

When contacted, a spokesperson for Wynn Resorts said the company had no comment regarding discussions with surrounding communities. More information about Wynn Resorts’ Everett casino proposal is on line at www.wynnineverett.com.

 

 

19 Responses to “City officials say ‘no dice’ to casino”

  1. Joann says:

    Of course, a casino on the Mystic in Everett is a terrible idea on so many levels. But I love watching the BOA and Mayor on the other side of the fence. Arguing over the ‘negative impacts’ of a development proposal. And they are surprised that it could go forward despite their objections. How many of us have sat at Planning Board or ZBA meetings that play out the exact same way? I am loving watching them squirm.

  2. Barry the Pig says:

    The entire nation is turning into a giant casino. When everything is going to s*it, all that is left for the masses is distraction and the vacuous hope of a slot machine hit.

  3. Ron Newman says:

    If the casino *is* built, I’d like Somerville to demand one positive thing out of it: a pedestrian bridge across, or next to, the Amelia Earhart Dam, connecting the new Assembly Square Orange Line station with the Target-Costco shopping center across the river in Everett.

  4. Larry says:

    LOLOLOLOL. Let’s get Bill and the boyz over at Mystic View Task Force (MVTF) to work on another shakedo…. er… I mean… “think tank/study”. Everett and Wynn will laugh them right out of the city and good for them.

    I’m totally in support of the casino over there in Everett – if only because it flushes all the hoity-toity, elitist plans for Assembly square right down the ‘ol crapper. THAT is why you build what we can when you can and not engage in all sorts of hand wringing, planning, delays and lawsuits to get something that won’t in the end work. All those years wasted and now no one will go to Assembly square.

    The voters in Everett had a say – we didn’t – and they spoke loudly about what mattered to them most (hint: tax relief for property owners and not some pie-in-the-sky pipedreams). Again… someone needs to take a hard look at all the revenue that MVTF has cost the city.

  5. Barry the Pig says:

    To spite them, let’s build a nuclear power station in Assembly Square!

  6. ritepride says:

    Time for the citizens to wake up and clean house of the elected city officials.
    First, put in place term limits. No more “careers” for elected office.
    Second, No more family line successors.
    Third, once they serve their term in office, they cannot run for that same position again.

  7. A. Moore says:

    Good ones Larry. I just wish we were able to vote on Assmebly Square like Everett got to vote on the casino. At least the residents got their say in it unlike us which was forced on us by just a few who decided on what was best for us. At this point I see Everett as a done deal. Just a question of how fast they will progress with it. I suspect less time than the Assembly Square fiasco.

  8. Darnell says:

    Gee, isn’t Mayor Joe bosom buddies with Everett Mayor Carlo DiMaria? I think Carlo gave a job to one of Mayor Joe’s buddies some years ago after the former city employee “left” his position in Somerville.

    Everett has every right to build this casino. It’s their city and if they are willimg to take a chance on it, more power to them. Maybe Mayor Joe can talk to his buddy Carlo and talk him out of it. I can’t wait to hit the blackjack tables in Everett.

  9. MarketMan says:

    A.Moore: So if we were able to vote on Assembly Square development, what would you have voted for?

  10. MarketMan says:

    Larry: That’s why the entire US has poor urban planning and suburban sprawl… no planning… just build. The result: very uninteresting places to visit. There’s a reason people like to go to Boston to hangout and not Woburn. Or got to Manhattan, not White Plains. Or go to San Francisco, not Mountain View.

  11. ritepride says:

    They loved and pushed for it so much, now…..Ask Mr. Shelton & the other MVTF members if they are moving into nthe Assembly Crow Projec….er Condos when they are completed.

  12. A.Moore says:

    Market Man, since you ask. Less housing and more business. Some thoughts of a medical center but not expert enough to know if that was feasable. Seemed to me it would be nice to have a Boston type hospital accessable to many cities without having to go into Boston. Just would have been nice to have a voice in it for something so big without it being decided for us. The only bad part of the casino to me is that my relatives will be coming to visit. I have yet to set foot in one in and not really interested in it.

  13. Ray Spitzer says:

    I like those little boats in the picture that cast no reflection on the water…

  14. kali says:

    If the Wynn Casino comes to Everett, we should have a riverboat that goes to Assembly. Perhaps the performance tent this summer could become a performance hall at assembly, with exciting programming. Add a movie theater and office space. Scrap the housing. Lots of job potential and tax revenue for casino outpost stuff. Separate the whole area from residential somerville. I myself, am against gambling, but it’s coming to either here or east boston – this is separate enough from our neighborhoods to take advantage and prosper.

  15. A. Moore says:

    I would assume they must have to employee a lot of people to run this kind of business. Don’t know how they pay as opposed to retail pay but I would think it would be more. So they would be adding many jobs here and I would think some from Somerville. Wonder how fast they would have this up and running? Has to be faster than the Assembly Square project. It would have been interesting to see if put to a vote here if the people would have voted for it. Guess we will never know.

  16. Larry says:

    Marketman, Boston, NYC, and SF were all well planned cities before being built??? LOL. You need to read a history book and/or get out of the house more. Things got built by developers looking to make money and they did. They didn’t get built via lawsuits and endless hand wringing as the criminals and imbeciles at MVTF dragged assembly square into.

    Build the casino and Assembly square can become the destination for hookers and drunks. I love it. It’s what we deserve for letting the process get hijacked by a small group of leftist zealots.

  17. makessense says:

    this is just more of Somerville getting screwed for delaying Assembly so long. the whole world wasn’t going to sit and wait. Costco/Target, and Station Landing, all those restaurants, shops, have all sprung up around us and we’re just getting started.

  18. jong@msn.com says:

    Has noone learned anything from Atlantic City? They were promised jobs and prosperity. They got some temporary construction jobs, waitress jobs, blackjack jobs, maybe some security jobs, and more extreme poverty than they started out with.

  19. The Truth Will Prevail says:

    I guess when the casino was offered to Somerville and Joe passed on it, he never in his wildest dreams thought it would end up across the river in Everett!

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