BOSTON (AP) — State gambling regulators agreed Thursday to consider Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s bid to have the city declared a host community for resort casino proposals in the neighboring cities of Everett and Revere, a designation that, if granted, would give Boston voters the ability to kill the projects.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said it would schedule a hearing on the dispute within two weeks, while expressing concern that the city’s eleventh-hour request could further disrupt the panel’s timetable for awarding the sole eastern Massachusetts casino license.
“The potential impact of casinos goes to the core of the quality of life in our neighborhoods,” said Walsh, who made a personal appeal to the commissioners to grant host community status. “The people of Boston deserve the Democratic process.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Kim Tunnicliffe reports
The state’s 2011 casino law defines a host community as the municipality where a gambling facility would be located. The law gives host communities leverage to negotiate lucrative agreements with casino developers and its residents the right to vote up or down on the proposed casino.
Walsh, in his request, does not appear to be arguing that either casino proposal — Wynn Resorts in Everett and Mohegan Sun in Revere — is physically within the boundaries of Boston. Instead he contends that either facility would rely heavily on Boston’s airport, roads and bridges for access and would dangle the city’s restaurants, museums and other attractions as lures for potential customers.
“The city of Boston is the crucial component, the key selling point of the proposed gaming establishments,” said Walsh.
While agreeing to hold a hearing, some commissioners appeared skeptical of the city’s claims and voiced frustration that the mayor waited until late Wednesday to send a letter to the panel asking for host community status. The request came a day before the panel was expected to give Boston a different designation that carries considerably less leverage.
“Why the secrecy surrounding this?” Commissioner James McHugh asked city officials. “I understand your position, but why the secrecy?”
Thomas Frongillo, an attorney representing the city, countered that Walsh since taking office in January had consistently held out the possibility of requesting host community status.
The panel had been weighing Boston’s status with respect to the Wynn proposal for months, Crosby said. Walsh’s predecessor, Thomas Menino, had previously contended that a sliver of the casino site was on the Boston side of the border, but dropped the claim after Wynn representatives produced detailed site maps.
The Mohegan Sun proposal emerged after voters in the East Boston neighborhood rejected an earlier plan by the Suffolk Downs racetrack for a casino on the Boston-Revere line.
Wynn and Mohegan Sun have both opposed designating Boston a host community.
Commissioners said they were worried the Boston dispute could throw out of whack the panel’s timetable for awarding the eastern Massachusetts license by June 30. Among the consequences of such a delay would be that the state would not receive an $85 million licensing fee from the winning applicant in the current fiscal year, as budget writers had presumed.
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