Boston Massachusetts casino license

Boston may have rejected plans to host a casino, but city officials still want host community status for nearby proposals. (Image: Gretchen Ertl, New York Times)

To say that Boston has had a complicated relationship with Massachusetts’ gaming regulators during the state’s casino licensing process is putting it very lightly. From originally hoping to get a casino in the city to standing by the community that voted against such a plan, the city has been on both sides of the issue, always trying to get the best possible outcome for Boston – even if they won’t be hosting a resort themselves.

Perhaps that’s why Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has made strong statements recently about the head of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. According to lawyers working on behalf of Walsh’s administration, commission chair Steve Crosby has made “prejudicial” statements that put into question his objectivity in Boston’s bid to be considered a host community for casinos in nearby locations.

Host Community Status Would Grant Veto Power

That host community status is something that Boston is hoping to obtain for casino plans in both Everett – where Wynn Resorts is hoping to gain a license – and in Revere, where a Mohegan Sun casino plan at Suffolk Downs was revitalized after being rejected by East Boston. In both cases, the proposed casinos would be built entirely outside of the city, but very close to Boston’s borders.

If Boston were able to achieve host community status in either of these cases, the neighborhoods near the casinos would have the right to vote on whether these casinos could be built – essentially giving them veto power over the plans. That would apply to East Boston for the Revere casino, as well as Charlestown for the Everett proposal.

In a letter submitted to the commission, the Walsh administration criticized Crosby, saying that he was biased and had already been critical of the request for host community status ahead of a planned May 1 hearing in which the state gambling commission will rule on the issue.

Mayor Walsh also objected to the hearing itself, saying that the format gives the city very little chance to make its case.

“It eliminates the city’s opportunity to call witnesses, to cross-examine witnesses and to create an appropriate evidentiary record that is subject to legal review,” the letter said. “In sum, the proposed procedure represents a thinly veiled attempt to ‘stack the deck’ against the city.”

Commission Stands Firm

But while the words of the Walsh administration may have been harsh, they didn’t provoke much of a response from the State Gaming Commission.

“The commission’s role is not to participate in or be distracted by the politicizing of certain aspects of this process,” said spokesperson Elaine Driscoll. “The commission has frequently been presented with complex matters of law requiring fair and judicious decision-making by the five appointed commissioners,” she added. “This matter is no different.”

Boston isn’t the only city that has submitted information regarding the battle over the Greater Boston casino license. Both Mohegan Sun (which would operate a Suffolk Downs casino) and Wynn have submitted briefs arguing against Boston’s community status. Revere Mayor Daniel Rizzo has also said that his city should be considered the only host community for a Suffolk Downs resort.

At the same time, all parties agree that Boston should have “surrounding community” status. That would entitle the city to some revenues and other concessions, but wouldn’t allow it to veto the projects outright.