With backers of two rival casino proposals in a tug of war over city lines, state gaming industry regulators on Wednesday waded into the somewhat muddied waters around a proposed Everett development that Boston attorneys say encroaches into Boston.
With Boston asserting the casino plans cross its city lines and Everett claiming its neighbor is merely next door, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission advised both sides to come to an agreement by the end of the week with Commissioner James McHugh saying that if the two sides couldn’t find common ground, the commission may make the decision for them.
“It was like the principal telling two kids that were fighting, ‘Figure out what the problem is; come back to me with a resolution,’” said Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, who agrees with developer Wynn Resorts that the resort stops short of Boston’s borders.
“It is true that the city of Boston is in close proximity to the site. In fact, an abutter,” said former Gov. Bill Weld of ML Strategies, representing Wynn Resorts, which hopes to build a casino on the banks of the Mystic River across from Charlestown and Somerville, and disputing the notion of any overlap.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino and his attorneys have argued the footprint of the plans includes part of Boston, giving the capital city “host community” status and the ability to negotiate a host community agreement. Host community status could also enable Boston to freeze out the Everett developer.
Menino last week signed an agreement with Suffolk Downs, an East Boston racetrack that he hopes will win the one eastern Massachusetts casino license.
Boston attorneys said Wynn officials have failed to respond to their requests for information, demanding that Boston consider itself a “surrounding community” in order to gain the documents.
“We’re really asking for the commission’s help in obtaining the information we’ve been seeking,” said attorney Abim Thomas, who said the commission can “eliminate an application from the process” if the applicant doesn’t provided documentation the commission requests.
In the midst of presentations that included maps from either side, Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby attempted to focus the discussion on the precise location of boundaries.
“This is a very legitimate conversation. This is genuinely confusing,” Crosby said at one point. “When you insist on bringing in the impacts issue, you muddy the water.”
At issue is a chunk of land, partially submerged, that used to house a Monsanto Chemical plant, which connects to Route 99 via Horizon Way, a road partially within Boston.
After a somewhat public exchange between Menino and Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Boston has yet to receive documents its attorneys said would help make the case for its host community status.
“A small portion of Horizon Way at the intersection of 99 is in Boston,” said attorney Dan Gaquin, representing Wynn and presenting a map he said had not previously been provided to Boston. Gaquin said the parcel that includes Boston would not be used for gaming, and Boston is therefore not a host community.
“The purpose is defensive,” said Weld of the property along Route 99 after the meeting, saying control of the property would ensure that no one erected a business or signage at cross-purposes with the casino.
The commission assembled the two cities’ representatives because of a public spat that Crosby said made the process look “disorganized and suspect and political.”
After the hearing, DeMaria clarified that Menino’s alleged attempt to “bully” state officials involved “transportation officials” not gaming officials.
“We were trying to resolve some issues with the T and they were standing in the way of that,” DeMaria told reporters. “Wynn has come to an agreement with the T.”
Weld raised the prospect of no casino license in eastern Massachusetts if Boston stands in Everett’s way and either Revere or Boston votes down the Suffolk proposal.
“You might well end up with no eastern Mass. casino,” Weld said. He said, “No outcomes are certain in a hotly contested election season.”
Informed about a third proposal in the region – Foxwoods is seeking to build a casino in Milford – Weld said, “Yes, well. For another day.”
“Our job is to ensure that the law is implemented properly,” Crosby said when asked about the possibility raised by Weld. He said, “We got what we wanted, which is to get the parties to exchange the documentation, which will give them the tools to make a decision.”
Boston extends across the Mystic into Everett, running in a strip that Crosby described as “a skinny little piece of Boston that comes up with Everett on both sides.”
An aide to DeMaria said there was a toll bridge across the river, and when Everett split off from Malden to become its own municipality, Boston retained the area around the bridge to maintain the toll.