BOSTON (AP) — The city filed a lawsuit on Monday against state gambling regulators, arguing that residents of its Charlestown neighborhood should be allowed a vote on a $1.6 billion resort casino that Wynn Resorts plans to build in suburban Everett.
The lawsuit, filed against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in Suffolk Superior Court, argues that Boston should have “host community” status because the only “legal access” to the casino site goes through Charlestown.
“We have understood from day one the complexity of this issue as it relates to the City and it has always been our belief that Boston is a host community,” Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said in a statement. “Our priority is to protect the people of Boston and ensure the safety of our neighborhoods.”
The city argues that the vast majority of people visiting the casino, tentatively slated to open by 2017, would have to travel by Rutherford Avenue and through Sullivan Square, an area already plagued with traffic congestion.
Walsh said the city had been trying to reach a “fair agreement” with Wynn but had been unable to.
Gambling commission spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said the panel had not received a copy of the lawsuit and had no immediate comment on it.
The commission in May denied the city’s request to be designated a host community for Wynn Resorts’ proposed casino in Everett and Mohegan Sun’s competing plan for a casino on land owned by Suffolk Downs in Revere. The commission later awarded Wynn the sole license for a resort casino in eastern Massachusetts.
The panel instead designated Boston a surrounding community, which entitles the city to financial compensation and other considerations from Wynn but not a vote by residents.
In the lawsuit, Boston says that Wynn failed to fulfill a promise to the commission that it would obtain access to the site through an adjacent Everett property owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.
The city also accused the commission of holding a “mock hearing,” one that violated the state’s 2011 casino gambling law and the Open Meeting law, on Boston’s claim that it should be a host community.
Boston’s lawsuit also says that the state’s casino contract with Wynn should be invalidated because of allegations surrounding the former owners of Monsanto chemical plant, on which the project is slated to be built. Federal indictments returned in October charged that the former owners of the property attempted to conceal that a convicted felon had a hidden financial interest in the land.
The commission said Wynn had no prior knowledge of any hidden ownership.
Wynn separately announced on Monday that it had finalized the $35 million purchase of the 33-acre parcel.
Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg contributed to this report.
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