Gambling Commission Approves Revised Everett Casino Land Deal
BOSTON (AP) — Four members of the state gambling commission signed off on a revised real estate deal for a proposed resort casino in Everett that would substantially reduce the price Wynn Resorts paid for the land and prevent anyone that might have a hidden ownership interest — including a convicted felon — from profiting off the sale of the property.
The panel’s chairman and fifth member, Stephen Crosby, recused himself from Friday’s discussion and vote after revealing that he was a friend and one-time business partner of Paul Lohnes, one of the principal owners of the land.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030′s Bernice Corpuz reports
The new deal negotiated between Wynn and FBT Realty, which bought the former Monsanto Co. chemical plant site for $8 million in 2009, would lower the price Wynn would pay from $75 million to $35 million if the company is awarded the sole eastern Massachusetts casino license. An additional $10 million would be subtracted and placed in an escrow account to cover the costs of cleaning up the contaminated site along the Mystic River.
The $35 million was determined by an independent appraiser to be the fair market value for the land if it were sold for non-gambling purposes, such as a retail store.
The commission also required that Lohnes and two other sellers, Dustin DeNunzio and Anthony Gattineri, sign under oath a guarantee that no one with a concealed interest in the property would receive a financial benefit.
The commissioners made clear, however, that there was no evidence Wynn was aware of any hidden investors at the time of the original deal in December and that company executives acted promptly when investigators brought concerns to their attention in July.
The evidence was uncovered during a background check required of all potential casino operators in Massachusetts.
“What at first appeared to be a relatively direct transaction was revealed to be a complex web of questionable conduct by the sellers that required even deeper scrutiny as each layer of the transaction was penetrated,” said Karen Wells, director of the commission’s Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement.
According to excerpts of the investigative report made public by the commission on Friday, Charles Lightbody, a convicted felon, was one of two men who possibly had an undisclosed ownership interest in the Everett land.
The report included transcripts of recorded telephone conversations that Lightbody was said to have had with a Massachusetts prison inmate, identified as Darin Bufalino, during which Lightbody appeared to boast of his ability to quietly profit if the land was sold to Wynn for a casino.
“Nobody knows who’s involved which makes it good because now I can just move on, you know what I mean?” Lightbody told Bufalino, according to the transcript of one call that was recorded under routine prison policy.
Kim Sinatra, general counsel for Wynn, told the commission said she was shocked to learn of the possible hidden interest in the land. She said the company renegotiated the sale price to fair market value so the landowners would make no more money off the property than they otherwise would if it was sold to any other type of buyer.
The commissioners also voted to turn over all information uncovered during the bureau’s investigation to state and federal prosecutors.
Crosby said he disclosed his past relationship with Lohnes in state Ethics Commission filings but did not make it publicly known until last week, when he announced his intent to recuse himself from deliberations over the land deal. Crosby has said he does not intend to remove himself from deliberations over the awarding of the eastern Massachusetts casino license.
Commissioner James McHugh, who chaired Friday’s meeting, said he had full confidence in Crosby.
‘I have no scintilla, no hint of a doubt about his ethical standards,” McHugh said.
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