City of Boston/Wynn Dispute Continues to Take Center Stage at Commission Meeting

Massachusetts Gaming

The host community dispute between the City of Boston and Wynn MA LLC regarding Wynn’s proposed casino development in Everett took center stage at the 76th open public meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on September 4, 2013. Ombudsman John Ziemba briefly introduced the discussion before handing the reins over to General Counsel Catherine Blue to illuminate the statutory definitions of ”Host Community,” “Surrounding Community,” and “Gaming Establishment.”

General Counsel Blue defined a “gaming establishment” as “the premises approved under a gaming license which includes a gaming area and any other nongaming structure related to the gaming area and may include, but shall not be limited to, hotels, restaurants, or other amenities.” Blue then identified a “host community” as “a municipality in which a gaming establishment is located or in which an applicant has proposed locating a gaming establishment,” while “surrounding communities” include “municipalities in proximity to a host community which the Commission determines experiences or are likely to experience impact from the development or operation of a gaming establishment, including municipalities from which the transportation infrastructure provides ready access to an existing or proposed gaming establishment.”

To contextualize the clash and identify the specific points of confusion between the two parties, Chairman Stephen Crosby invited representatives from the City of Boston to address the Commission and share their point of view regarding the Wynn development. Goodwin Procter’s Abim Thomas explained that the City of Boston seeks additional information from Wynn that precisely outlines Wynn’s proposed gaming establishment in order to determine whether Boston is a host or surrounding community. While Wynn’s application is not due until the end of the year, Ms. Thomas highlighted a statute that requires the applicant to provide any details requested by the Commission, including the assessed value of the land, ownership interests over the past 20 years, and demographic, geographic, and environmental information.

Ms. Thomas presented the Commission with a series of images of the proposed site to provide context for why the City of Boston has tried to seek additional information from Wynn. The main graphic displayed an aerial view of the former Monsanto Chemical Site (upon which the proposed casino would be built). The image outlined the border of the proposed site and highlighted the piece of the parcel that is located within the City of Boston. According to the Wynn proposal, the Boston parcel would include a harbor walk and other amenities. The City of Boston requested additional clarification and information about the plans for the site.

Ms. Thomas pointed to the Commission’s mission and charge to ensure a fair, transparent, and speedy process, and therefore asked for the Commission’s help in attaining additional information from Wynn. Chairman Crosby agreed that it would be irresponsible for Boston not to pose the question about Wynn’s intentions with respect to the Boston parcel.

Members of the Wynn development team then tried to dispel the confusion regarding the property lines. They explained that the majority of the parcel is located within the City of Everett.  They stated that per the regulatory definition, the host community is Everett, while Boston is more appropriately a surrounding community. Wynn also explained that giving Boston the status of host community might give the City the power to effectively kill the project.

Speaking to the proposed plans for the parcel, Wynn’s real-estate expert displayed additional site plans. He explained that a Wynn affiliate owns the Boston parcel, but that Wynn has no current plans for that land.  He went on to say that the Boston parcel would likely be landscaped, but would not include any portion of the gaming establishment.  He said that he would be willing to stipulate that the gaming establishment would be located entirely within the City of Everett.

Wynn provided the Commission with images Chairman Crosby found helpful in honing in on the issues between the parties.  Chairman Crosby asked for clarification regarding what information the Wynn team had provided to the City of Boston to date and asked why these additional images had not been provided to the City of Boston.

At the conclusion of the Wynn presentation, Chairman Crosby reinforced the Commission’s objective to facilitate the conversation between the parties. As time is of the essence (the Commission begins accepting Phase 2 applications in October), he urged the parties to get together and come up with a solution before the end of the week (Friday, September 6). If a resolution was not possible by the end of the week, Commissioner McHugh suggested an adjudicatory hearing to resolve the issue.

On Friday, September 6, the parties issued the following statement: ‘‘Based on the new information provided at Wednesday’s public meeting, the parties have agreed to begin discussions about Boston’s status as a surrounding community to address the impacts that Wynn’s proposed gaming establishment would have on Boston and the Charlestown community.”

 

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