Casino Countdown

On November 27, 2013, in Latest News, by The News Staff

Everett plan moves forward
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This architect’s rendering of the proposed development, taken from the Wynn Everett website, shows the casino complex that Wynn Resorts plans to build if all of the legal hurdles can be cleared.

This architect’s rendering of the proposed development, taken from the Wynn Everett website, shows the casino complex that Wynn Resorts plans to build if all of the legal hurdles can be cleared.

By Elizabeth Sheeran

It’s been a “good news, bad news” month for casino opponents in Somerville. The good news: public support for gaming in Massachusetts looks to be waning, with a wave of casino proposals going down to defeat in recent host community referendums. The bad news: those defeats elsewhere are improving the odds for a Wynn Resorts casino just across the Mystic River in Everett, which passed its own local referendum months ago.

Milford voters last week soundly rejected a Foxwoods-backed proposal. Two weeks earlier, East Boston residents voted down a casino plan for Suffolk Downs that straddled the town line with Revere, even as Revere voters approved it.  That leaves Wynn’s Everett project as the only one of the three contenders for this region’s single resort casino license to have passed the host community referendum test with flying colors.

But a resort casino in Everett isn’t a sure bet just yet.

Suffolk Downs backers last week presented the five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission with a re-packaged plan that locates the casino entirely within Revere city limits. Critics say the referendum vote can’t be retrofitted to a new proposal, and there isn’t enough time before the December 31 application deadline for a new vote. The Gaming Commission is still reviewing the matter.

And Wynn’s Everett casino proposal has its own hurdles yet to clear. The Gaming Commission has scheduled a December 16 hearing to review Wynn’s suitability as an applicant, and the bar has been set high.

“The burden is on the applicant to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence both its affirmative qualifications for licensure and the absence of any disqualification for licensure,” said Gaming Commission Chairman Steve Crosby at a recent hearing.

The commission added a number of conditions to its suitability finding for the Milford casino proposal, just days before voters there shot it down.  According to Gaming Commission documents, its investigative report casts a very broad net, including “affiliates and close associates and the financial resources of the applicant.”

The background investigation into the Suffolk Downs project raised enough questions about the business dealings of participant Caesars Entertainment that Suffolk’s owners eventually cut ties with Caesars altogether, leaving it without a partner to run the proposed casino. Even if it’s allowed to proceed with a Revere-only option, Suffolk Downs still has to find a new “suitable” casino operator before it can pass the suitability test itself.

Nor has Wynn Resorts managed to avoid its own speed bumps on the road to approval.  The Las Vegas-based firm last week acknowledged that Gaming Commission investigators had raised questions about who actually owns the 30 acres of land where Wynn plans to build its Everett casino. Separately, the Boston Globe reported that Charles Lightbody, who has a criminal record and made the news last month when he was charged with punching a Suffolk Downs casino supporter, was suspected of having a beneficial interest in the Everett land deal.

In a statement, Wynn said the Gaming Commission’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) “raised concerns about potential participants who had not been disclosed to us. Those concerns were denied by the selling group.” Wynn went on to say it had responded to IEB concerns by renegotiating the terms of its option to buy the land. “We have agreed with the sellers to amend our option agreement to clearly confirm ownership and to reduce the option price to reflect fair market value without casino use,” said the statement released last Thursday.

Gaming Commission officials have said they cannot discuss the specifics of the background investigation until the investigation is complete.  But with Wynn’s suitability hearing less than three weeks away, and a decision anticipated soon on the Revere-only option for Suffolk Downs, the commission is getting closer to deciding the fate of that 30 acres of blighted property, which sits just across the river from Somerville’s Assembly Row.

Under the state gaming law, casino developers must negotiate mitigation agreements with designated “surrounding communities” within 30 days of their final application. But it’s up to the developers to designate which towns and cities are “surrounding communities,” subject to appeal within 10 days.

According to official correspondence between Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Wynn Resorts Development, Wynn has yet to designate Somerville as a surrounding community, despite at least three such requests from the mayor since September 3.

The mayor has also repeatedly requested that Wynn provide funds for Somerville to conduct an independent study of potential impacts on the city, as provided for by the gaming law. Wynn instead offered to share its own studies so as to avoid “duplication of efforts.” In an October 14 letter, Wynn’s General Counsel Jacqui Krum wrote, “Based on the results of our economic impact study, we have determined that the City of Somerville will not suffer any adverse impacts from our proposed development other than, potentially, traffic impacts.”

Mayor Curtatone has rejected the “duplication of efforts” argument. “It is imperative for the City of Somerville to also be in a position to independently assess impacts as a potential surrounding community without expense or delay,” wrote the mayor. “Your response amounts to a denial of the city’s request for funding to study potential impacts.”

According to the mayor’s office, staff and elected officials are meeting regularly to share updates on the casino proposal, but the city can’t yet plan what to do about the project’s impact because Wynn hasn’t yet given Somerville all the data and technical support it needs to accurately assess what that impact is going to be.

In a letter to Wynn earlier this month, the mayor wrote that the developer’s failure to respond to issues he had raised previously “raises serious concerns with respect to how Wynn proposes to address surrounding community impact and mitigation issues relative to the City of Somerville.”

Somerville may not have to wait too long to find out what kind of a neighbor Wynn Resorts might be in Everett. The developer has until December 31 to complete its application with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission; then the 30-day clock starts ticking on mitigation agreements with surrounding communities.

The Gaming Commission is expected to award the Eastern Massachusetts resort casino license by the end of April.

 

14 Responses to “Casino Countdown”

  1. Ron Newman says:

    If this is built, Somerville should demand a pedestrian/bike bridge from the new Assembly Square station across the Mystic River. That would help both cities, and would encourage people to arrive at the casino by Orange Line rather than by car. It would link Somerville to the new Bike To The Sea path, and would also improve access to the Costco-Target shopping center on the Everett side.

  2. F.Charles says:

    Just curious, but did the Mayor of Somerville supply the City of Medford, the City of Everett, the City of Boston with money to conduct independent studies to determine how his new development at Assembly Square would affect them.

  3. JMB says:

    Ron, I think that is the only thing I’ve ever agreed with you on. Can we just make it over the Amelia Earhart Dam?

  4. Somerbreeze says:

    Ron, good suggestion, but how many patrons of an Everett casino are going to go there by SUBWAY?

    The horse–or car, in this case–is already out of the barn….

  5. Ron Newman says:

    They’ll go by subway if the access is made easier by T than it is by car. And meanwhile, such a connection will increase use of the Assembly Square station and give Somerville access to a new path leading all the way to Lynn-Nahant Beach.

  6. ritepride says:

    “new Bike To The Sea path” In this economy is it economically smart to build another “bikepath” to an area that may only be used for the months of summer? Access to Everett…Big plus for the Everett mayor..big Shame for the Somerville mayor.

    The federal ten year study of bikes saving the environment out West and down South proved there was no reduction in pollution. Which by the way the head of the bike lobby in Somerville works for the same federal agency and knows damn well bikes do not reduce pollution.

    The bikes want to ride on the streets, let them peddle their butts over the roadways to the sea. Thus bikepaths are a wasteful use of limited taxpayer dollars. Maybe the “bike” pushers can lobby the big corporations to pay for various lengths of the bikepath including the maintenance; sweeping & cleaning the rubbish. Thus we will not end up paying for some politicians relative become Superintendent of BikePath Maintenance.

  7. Ron Newman says:

    The Bike to the Sea path is already built in Everett, Malden, and Saugus, and the Revere section will be built next year. All that’s still needed is to connect it to Somerville at this end and Lynn at the other end.

  8. Pixie Pocahontas says:

    rite,

    The casino in Everett will be a nightmare to everyone but the owners and political benefactors. Eventually, it will cause property values to drop, increase crime and traffic accidents. How does that benefit surrounding communities?

    You have touched on some other issues I agree with as well.
    When will the taxpayer spending stop on projects we don’t need like more bicycle extensions? Let them dig into their own pockets if they want them, we have too much debt already without commercial real estate owners picking up the tab.

  9. Paul says:

    I’d be happy to halt spending on bike path extensions if we stop spending on all auto roadways.

    I’d like all of the bicycle haters to post right now what they are doing to save the planet.

  10. Ron Newman says:

    Bike paths, including both the Somerville Community Path and the Northern Strand (Bike to the Sea), are used by pedestrians at least as much as by bikes.

  11. Amen says:

    yes, halt spending on all roadways. mature & realistic. trucks don’t deliver much to us, do they? I’d love to be waiting for an ambulance to plow down the bike path to get to me. some of us are car dependent for a multitude of reasons that involve making a living, caring for loved ones, etc. because you drive on the road doesn’t mean you’re abusing the environment. hop on the bike, you must be late for your Mensa meeting.

  12. ritepride says:

    Yeh Paul! Like the logo says..”Nobody rides for Free” except bicycle owners..they want Bike Paths, drive on public roadways slowing down vehicle traffic thus creating more emissions, ride the sidewalks in squares, etc. for free. Yet they do not want to pay for insurance, license plates, inspection stickers, etc. Meanwhile car/truck/motorcycle owners all pay extra for the roadways with gas taxes, excise taxes, insurance, etc.

    You can only save so much on the planet. Have you heard the word ‘evolution’. No one can save everything in the world. Green turtles were down with only a few thousand nests, now there are 350,000 nests.
    If they expand too high some other habitat will become extinct. The North Pole ice is shrinking yet the South Pole ice is expanding. It is something nature is in charge of…meanwile your Bike Paths by the waterways infringe on the habitat of animals but you have no problem with that? The products used on bikes, (like autos) use manufactured products that in that process are harmful to the atmosphere but you have no problem with that. So you should have no problem paying for insurance to operate your bicycle on the roadways/paths, paying excise tax etc.

  13. Amen says:

    Amen, ritepride. they want it all, but the evil car people should pay for it all. and without we who drive the dreaded trucks and autos, I don’t think you can have your precious macciocco latte!

  14. LMAO…Amen…”Mensa Meetings”and “Evil Car People”….

    ritepride: Great points about renewable energy. A number of scams when it comes to “going green”, the windfarm is just one of many. In order for these alternative energy programs to be beneficial, it means they actually have to produce while not harming the planet and ecosystem. The major polluters who contaminate our land, air and water just keep paying fines. Why aren’t the jolly greenies out there banging on the doors of these corporations and asking them to stop polluting our natural resources? It’s easier to go after the working class who depend on vehicles for their livelihood. The reason they can use a bike for everything is because they are single without family, like kids, and elders. Trucks need to deliver goods to supermarkets–we can’t all grow our own vegetable gardens on a sunroof greenhouse, or jump on the bike and go to the farmers market–not when you have to feed a family of four or more. I’ve worked for scientists who have studied the damage of pollution caused by major corporations. The problem is they can’t get them to stop polluting and riding a bike is not going to save the planet, but forcing corporations to clean up their act will. This is all about marketing for the bike industry and temporary car alternatives presently being forced upon the region because some have been granted the authority to push their private agendas.

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