Disagreements on the proposed casino project in Boston area continue between Somerville administration and Wynn
The tensions between Boston city officials and two casino developers: Wynn Resorts and Mohegan Sun are widely publicized in the American gambling news. The plans to erect a casino resort close to Boston may run into a halt because of this. A brand new casino license is expected to be awarded to one of the developers by the end of summer this year.
But the more disturbing issue is the growing argument between Wynn and Somerville officials. Mayor Joe Curtatone is looking to place Doug Foy as the arbitrator to resolve the issue. Foy was employed as state development secretary under Mitt Romney.
Wynn, however, is claiming Foy will be biased in favor of the city. He’s backing this by saying Serrafix Corp., Foy’s consulting company, has been cooperating with the city for a long time. Last month, Wynn proposed their own candidate for the position: retired judge Stephen Neel, currently employed by JAMS arbitration firm. Naturally, major Curtatone is against his candidacy.
Wynn vs Somerville
Tensions over proposed casino in Boston area continues to rise
• Change in American gambling laws allowed a new casino in Boston area
• Wynn and Mohegan Sun are in the running to construct the resort
• Tensions between Wynn and Somerville administration continue to increase
The tensions grew stronger when last week, Wynn filed a petition with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which oversees implementation of the American gambling laws in the state. The gambling giant is asking the body to ensure the city withdraws Foy from any consideration and chooses another, neutral arbitrator.
Mintz Levin attorneys, the firm representing Wynn in the case is confident Foy will not be capable of coming up with a fair decision in the matter, and thus a neutral arbitrator is needed when it comes to a serious decision of erecting a casino resort.
The Gaming Commission has denied the request put forward by Wynn, suggesting the issue be resolved between the developer and Somerville’s mayor themselves. However, a spokesperson for the commission assured that in case a solution can’t be found, they will step in and select a third person for the arbitration panel.
Why the sudden tensions?
Major Curtatone has publicly expressed his unhappiness with Wynn’s plans to erect a casino resort in Everett, across the Mystic River from Charlestown and Somerville. The main concern of the city’s major is a threat of potential traffic increase. This would be particularly unwelcomed considering they have just started redeveloping Assembly Square on the west side of the river.
Curtatone said he plans to campaign for a state-wide referendum against the recent law changes allowing new casinos in the state by fall. Naturally, the referendum can only be called if the Supreme Judicial Court rules on its legality.
While Somerville is not located as close to the proposed Wynn casino site as Boston, thousands of casino visitors would still drive through Somerville or along Somerville line to get to the resort. The Sullivan Square is already overwhelmed by traffic and any increase to that is regarded as hazardous by city’s officials.
This was the reason for Curtatone and his administration seeking a surrounding community agreement with Wynn, including mitigation payments. There have been no agreement on the matter so far, and the tensions continues to rise.
Boston’s point of view
On the other side, Boston’s administration headed my major Marty Walsh, has argued before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that their city’s community should be considered in regards to both casino plans. Mohegan Sun’s proposal sees a casino resort erected in Suffolk Downs in Revere.
Thus, both Wynn and Mohegan Sun projects will be located very close to Boston city line. However, the Gaming Commission has ruled that Boston will not get a host community agreement and the referendum, which could potentially kill the plans for the casino construction. Boston has been advised to apply for surrounding community agreement, which brings less mitigation money, but no vote on the matter.
Considering the negotiations for a surrounding community agreement between Wynn and Somerville are in full swing and are quite quarrelsome, it’s very hard to imagine that Boston could reach a similar settlement before Somerville.