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Gambling Regulators Nearing Decision On Greater Boston Casino

Gambling industry regulators in Massachusetts resume deliberations today on awarding the state's most lucrative casino license.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission last week concluded a months-long evaluation of the competing proposals from Wynn Resorts and Mohegan Sun to build a resort casino in greater Boston. Wynn's proposal to build a $1.6 billion casino on the site of a former chemical plant in Everett appeared to have a slight edge in the panel's rating system, which judges each project in five categories including design, potential economic impact, finances and impact on local communities.

 Mohegan Sun's proposal is for a $1.3 billion casino in Revere at the Suffolk Downs racetrack.

Acting Commission Chairman James McHugh explained the deliberations will involve open discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal

The commission last week asked both Wynn and Mohegan Sun to respond to proposed changes in the projects.   The Commission wants Wynn to consider redesigning the exterior of the casino complex which includes a 27 story hotel.   McHugh called the design”generic."       Wynn is also being asked to put more money toward addressing the impact the casino would have on  a traffic in one part of Boston.

 For Mohegan Sun, the commission wants the Connecticut-based gaming company to come up with $100 million more in equity for the Massachusetts project.

The gaming panel's analysis judged Wynn's project to be more financially sound than Mohegan Sun's and to be more likely to have  a greater impact on the region's economy by marketing to international tourists.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh ripped the gaming commission last week claiming the panel has been biased against the city of Boston.

  Walsh has been frustrated over the gaming commission’s earlier rejection of  Boston's petition to be designated a host community for the two casino projects. The host status would give the city's voters  veto power over the casino projects.

Walsh negotiated an agreement with Mohegan Sun that will see the city receive annual payments of $18 million if the Revere casino is built and upfront payments of more than $30 million. The city  could not strike a deal with Wynn and Walsh refused to go to arbitration. 

Mohegan Sun had initially proposed building a casino in rural Palmer in western Massachusetts, but plans that had been in the works for years, were dashed last November when the project was rejected by fewer than 100 votes in a local referendum.

 Within days of that defeat at the polls in Palmer, Mohegan Sun officials were working to strike a deal to partner on a casino with Suffolk Downs.  Former Mohegan Sun backers in Palmer have bitterly accused the company of breaking agreements, and they've written the gaming commission urging a review of Mohegan Sun's actions in Palmer.

The Wynn project is not without controversy either.  Authorities have reportedly been investigating allegations that secret partners will profit from the sale of the casino property in Everett.

The commission's handling of the award of the greater Boston casino license  will be closely scrutinized by gambling opponents, who are campaigning to pass a referendum in November that would stop  casinos in Massachusetts from ever opening.

The gaming commission previously designated MGM Springfield to get the lone casino license in western Massachusetts. A slots parlor license was awarded to a harness race track in Southeastern Massachusetts. 

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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