The Massachusetts casino battle has placed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in an unusual position. He has simultaneously battled against allowing potential nearby casinos, while also trying to get the best possible deal for his city if one ultimately is built. Throughout the process, Walsh has also had plenty of criticism for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and he fired away at them again last week.
Walsh accused the commission’s acting chairman of holding a bias against the city of Boston, and said that the board as a whole has been illegally manipulating the casino licensing process. The accusations come at a sensitive time, as the commission is currently debating whether to award the sole Greater Boston area license to a Wynn development in Everett or a competing proposal for a Mohegan Sun casino at Suffolk Downs in Revere.
“In the City’s view, the Commission has improperly manipulated the gaming licensing process by ignoring and violating the mandates of the Gaming Act…which requires the Commissioners to ‘conduct themselves in a manner so as to render decisions that are fair and impartial and In the public interest,'” Walsh wrote in a letter to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. “The Commission has displayed clear bias against the City of Boston in its decision-making and public statements.”
In the letter, Walsh singled out comments by acting chairman James McHugh, who made a statement that Walsh “abandoned” the Charlestown community by choosing not to participating in arbitration with Wynn over compensation for their casino project. He also said that McHugh played a major role in stopping Boston from receiving host community status for the two casino proposals, which would have given the city veto power over the projects.
Walsh has also questioned statements made by McHugh in regards to the upcoming vote on awarding the casino license. With board chairman Stephen Crosby having recused himself from the process, there are only four members left, meaning it’s possible that the vote could end in a 2-2 tie between the Wynn and Mohegan projects. But McHugh has already said he’s confident that won’t happen, which Walsh finds suspicious.
“For a commissioner who is not supposed to know what the future of gaming is in the Boston region, he’s making public statements that he knows it’s not going to be a tie,” Walsh told the Boston Globe.
The commission has soundly rejected Walsh’s charges, saying that they’ve been very careful to ensure that Boston’s interests have been protected throughout the process.
“The commission firmly rejects false accusations of bias and remains fully committed to protecting the integrity of the process,” said spokesperson Elaine Driscoll in a statement.
Last week, the commission released their reports on the two plans vying for the Boston-area casino license. Overall, the panel seemed to have a slight preference for the Wynn’s plan, due in large part to the fact that the Everett resort appeared to be more ambitious. However, there were also sharp criticisms on what they deemed to be a less-than-thrilling project design.
Meanwhile, the panel felt that the Mohegan Sun proposal in Revere was geared more towards attracting Boston-area consumers without encroaching on its existing Connecticut customer base. The Wynn also scored better in financing and economic benefits, while Mohegan won points for their design and the way they have handled the local impact their casino could have.
Looks like a possible neck-in-neck finish to come.