BOSTON (AP) — A majority of the state’s gambling commission appeared Tuesday to be leaning toward allowing Mohegan Sun to pursue a casino on land owned by Suffolk Downs in Revere, without requiring a second vote by the city’s residents.
Three of the five members of the panel, including its chairman, Stephen Crosby, indicated in remarks during a meeting that even though the proposal had changed dramatically from the one Revere voters backed on Nov. 5, they believed an earlier agreement between Suffolk Downs and the city allowed for broad revisions and noted there had not as yet been any discernable outcry among residents over the new plan.
Two commissioners, James McHugh and Bruce Stebbins, expressed reservations about allowing the plan to proceed without a second referendum — which would not be possible before the state’s Dec. 31 deadline for final casino applications.
The panel put off a final decision — which does not have to be unanimous — until next week, when it will also formally decide whether to allow Mohegan Sun to replace Suffolk Downs as the applicant for the sole eastern Massachusetts casino license.
Suffolk Downs, a 78-year-old thoroughbred racetrack, turned to a Revere-only scenario after East Boston voters rejected a proposed casino that would have straddled the communities. Suffolk Downs later announced that Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun, which failed in an earlier bid for a casino in Palmer, would develop and operate the casino.
While calling the Revere proposal ‘‘very attractive,’’ McHugh expressed concern over the change in the scope of the project in Revere and the switch from Suffolk Downs to Mohegan Sun as the applicant.
‘‘I am troubled by those issues,’’ said McHugh, a former judge. ‘‘I'm troubled by the dramatic change in the content of the agreement, from the agreement that was before voters.’’
But Crosby noted that the agreement between Suffolk Downs and Revere not only allowed for, but actually encouraged, future expansion in Revere.
‘‘It was anticipated that there was the possibility of a substantial change,’’ said Crosby. ‘‘There was a reopener clause that begged for more development in Revere.’’
Commissioners Gayle Cameron and Enrique Zuniga also indicated support for allowing the Revere-only plan to move forward, with Cameron saying the panel had received only one objection from a Revere voter about the revised plan — and that from a resident who had voted no in the Nov. 5 referendum.
‘‘How do people in Revere feel? Do they feel it is a different project? I haven’t seen that response,’’ Cameron said.
While it would no longer operate the casino, Suffolk Downs — New England’s only thoroughbred facility — has promised to continue racing at the track which is located on the East Boston side of the Revere border. But it would have to move its stables to a new location to make room for the proposed casino.
If the commission does give Mohegan Sun the green light to apply, the proposal could be in competition for the eastern regional casino license with Wynn Resorts, which has proposed a casino for Everett. The commission hopes to award the license by mid-2014.
The Mystic Valley Regional Charter School has hired Shawn Thornton as its new athletic director. Thornton took over the reins of Mystic Valley’s athletic program on Dec. 1 from Marc Arria, who left to take the athletic director’s position at Winchester High School.
Thornton has an extensive background in the local high school athletics scene. He is a Bridgewater State College graduate. He received his master's degree from Northeastern University. He worked as athletic director and girls’ basketball coach at Saint Clement and Pope John.
Thornton has received many awards including: the Ted Damko Award in 2008; Girls Basketball Sportsmanship Award from the Mass.Interscholastic Athletic Association in 2011; District H Athletic Director of Year Award in 2013 and Girls Basketball Sportsmanship Award MIAA CAA - Certified Athletic Administrator in 2013.
Additionally, in 2013 he earned his 100th victory as a girls' basketball coach. His coaching record in the Catholic Central League over the past three seasons (two at Pope John in Everett and one at Saint Clement High School in Medford) is 33-3.
"It is a privilege and honor to be part of a rich and prestigious school that has a great vision and I look forward working with the administration, coaches, parents, and of course, each and every student-athlete," said Thornton, who was a three-sport star at Saint Clement and resides in Medford.
Suffolk Downs announced Wednesday afternoon that it will partner with Mohegan Sun on a resort casino proposed to be built on 42 acres of the racetrack’s 52-acre property in the city of Revere.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission also announced that Suffolk Downs and its casino plans are on the panel’s agenda for a meeting on Tuesday. The Globe reported the new partnership in Wednesday's paper.
Mohegan Sun, which operates casinos in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, had sought a casino license in western Massachusetts until voters in Palmer rejected their proposal earlier this month by less than 100 votes, an outcome that was confirmed Tuesday in a recount.
Suffolk Downs dropped its gaming partner Caesars following a state background check just prior to losing a critical vote in East Boston on Nov. 5, which prompted the track to draw up plans for a new casino just over the city line in Revere.
“Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs each began our pursuit of a place in the Massachusetts gaming industry in different ways and different locations. Circumstances brought us together in recent days, and we immediately recognized that something truly special can be created in Revere,” said Mitchell Etess, CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.
Mohegan Sun and its financial partner Brigade Capital Management, which brings a $15 billion investment, have already been found suitable along with Suffolk Downs by the gaming commission to compete for a license.
As part of the new agreement with Suffolk Downs to become a development partner and gaming operator, Mohegan Sun has agreed to honor all commitments previously made by the track in its host community agreement with Revere, and plans to work with Suffolk Downs to reach surrounding community agreements.
Even though the terms of the host community agreement are not being altered, the commission has not yet ruled on whether the referendum vote in Revere taken when the project still included development in East Boston can stand for a Revere-only project. If Suffolk Downs and Revere can get a casino proposal on track, they would compete with neighboring Everett for the casino license in eastern Massachusetts.
In a statement, Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo said he was “very encouraged” by the new partnership.
- M. Murphy/SHNS
Wellesley is the first liberal arts college to offer Spanish-language estimates of expected costs, taking into account financial aid WELLESLEY, Mass., Nov. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Wellesley College has released a new, Spanish-language version…
Prospective slots parlor developers in Raynham and Leominster will be required to negotiate surrounding community agreements with the towns of Bridgewater and Bolton, respectively, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided Thursday.
Other municipalities around the proposed Parx Raynham and Cordish Companies slot parlors failed to meet the surrounding community designation, but if a slot parlor’s operations are determined to have a detrimental effect on a nearby town, they would be able to draw out of an estimated $15 million to $20 million mitigation funding, commission chairman Stephen Crosby said.
“They will have an opportunity to come to us and tap into that money,” Crosby said.
The Raynham developers already designated Middleborough, Easton, Foxborough and West Bridgewater as surrounding communities, which requires the slots parlor to work out an arrangement with the towns. Raynham worked out agreements with Taunton and nearby agreements with Rehoboth, Berkley and Lakeville. Nearby agreements are with places that do not meet the definition of surrounding community, according to a gaming official.
Cordish Companies has reached agreements with Lancaster, Lunenburg, Westminster and Princeton. Penn National Gaming, which is hoping to build a slots parlor at the Plainridge Racecourse, has deals with Mansfield, North Attleboro and Wrentham and has designated Foxborough a surrounding community but has yet to work out an agreement.
Other municipalities sought surrounding community designations, but were not deemed to meet the definition, including Fitchburg, despite what Crosby described as an “impassioned” letter from Mayor Lisa Wong.
Gaming developers have 30 days to negotiate agreements with municipalities that receive surrounding community status, and if no deal is worked out both sides enter binding arbitration with the Gaming Commission.
Penn National agreed to give preference to Wrentham residents and businesses in hiring and contracting, study the impacts of the slots parlor on the nearby town and then fund mitigation for those impacts.
Cordish agreed to pay Lunenburg $5,000 per year, with the amount increasing by 1 percent annually, and a sliding scale of revenue sharing up to 1 percent if the slots parlor makes $275 million per year. Cordish also agreed to use union labor for construction, give hiring preferences and reimburse nearby fire and police departments for responses to the site.
Licensing of the state’s first slot parlor is on track for early January, Crosby said. The commission is scheduled to issue the lone slots license first, followed by casino licenses for the east and west of the state, and finally a license for the southeast.
Negotiations with surrounding communities could be hairier during the licensing of casinos as there are already tensions between host communities and abutting cities.
The remaining potential contenders in the east, Wynn Resorts in Everett and the portion of Suffolk Downs located in Revere, have vastly different relationships with Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who will hand over the reins of government to Mayor-elect Marty Walsh in January.
Everett and Revere also border one another, connected by Route 16, making them potential surrounding communities of one another.
A backer of Suffolk Downs, Menino tried and failed to use a wedge of land technically located in Boston as a means to block the Everett proposal. Menino, who resisted calls to put the Suffolk Downs vote to the entire city, saw the East Boston neighborhood bat down the proposal on election night.
Officials in Medford next door to Everett have criticized the proposed development, and across the river in Somerville, Mayor Joe Curtatone is one of the leaders in an effort to repeal the 2011 gaming law that provided for casinos.
Springfield, the host city for a proposed MGM casino, is across the river from West Springfield, which voted down a Hard Rock proposal to build a casino there.
Dighton sought surrounding community status for the Raynham slots, and Sterling sought the status for its proximity to the proposed Leominster slots. Proximity as the crow flies is not the primary consideration for the commission, as commission staff noted that although the Sterling town line is within a quarter mile from the proposed establishment, the slots parlor would be on a dead-end, and the closest residential neighborhood in Sterling would be a 5-mile commute via an interstate.
Fitchburg had also argued strenuously for mitigation from Cordish.
“The city does not possess the internal planning, economic development and legal resources necessary to identify all known impacts and to negotiate a Surrounding Community Agreement due to significant budget constraints. This is exacerbated by Cordish’s unwillingness to negotiate with the City and the potential for arbitration as a result,” Fitchburg officials wrote.
The letter signed by Wong said, “Preliminary reviews of information indicate that cities and towns located within a 10-mile radius of gambling facilities, with a higher than average poverty level, are more adversely affected by the introduction of those venues.”
In response to an email from a Fitchburg attorney Bruce Tobey, the head of the gaming company advised city officials to visit Cordish properties in Maryland and Florida, and questioned their concern.
“We do not need to revisit Fitchburg to agree that it is depressed economically. We have been there countless times,” David Cordish wrote. “Mass Live did not create these problems. Is the City somehow contending that we are the cause of Fitchburg’s problems today.”
Crosby said the commission would fund studies to measure the impact of gaming establishments and could award dollars from the mitigation fund, which would be fed the state’s share of gaming revenue.
A Revere-only Suffolk Downs casino had been contemplated by developers before that became the only option for the site and would require the horse track in East Boston move its stables, Suffolk Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission Thursday.
Suffolk Downs was dealt a split decision on Nov. 5, when voters in East Boston rejected the proposal, and voters in Revere approved the plan, creating a complication for the commission to untangle.
“I think it’s safe to say that nobody quite anticipated what’s happening in Boston, Revere and with the Suffolk Downs applicant,” Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said ahead of a hearing at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. He said, “This is a 51-49 question at best…. I think we have to do a lot of real hard looking.”
Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo, who raised the potential of developing a casino only on the Revere side of the property on election night, said the host community agreement Revere voters approved by more than 60 percent anticipated the potential that the casino would be confined within city lines, allowing for renegotiations to expand what had been planned in Revere.
“It does not mention East Boston or tie the Revere vote to a successful vote in East Boston. That was not by accident,” said Rizzo. He said, “Many have noted that a Revere-only casino was not the project that was promoted by Suffolk Downs before the election. I do not dispute that, but it is true that Chip Tuttle did recognize before the election the possibility of proceeding only in one community.”
Rizzo said even before the election he had hoped that more of the facility would be built in Revere, which contains part of the race track, the horse barns and parking for the track, which first opened in the 1930s.
Deemed an early front-runner in the hunt for the lone casino license in the eastern part of the state, Suffolk Downs has faced eleventh-hour complications, dropping its casino operator, Caesars Entertainment, after learning of a critical report from background investigators.
“I’m inclined to believe that this is a last-ditch effort by folks who have spent a lot of money,” said Celeste Myers, of No Eastie Casino, who said that if her group knew about the possibility of a Revere-only casino, they could have “energized” the anti-casino movement in Revere, as they did in East Boston.
Tuttle claimed he made the possibility clear in response to a question from No Eastie Casino at a Sept. 9 forum that was recorded and is on Suffolk’s website.
Matt Cameron, a volunteer attorney for No Eastie Casino, said that the proposition to voters had consistently been for one casino straddling the city lines, and contended that the track in East Boston is an “essential part” of the casino proposal.
Cameron said in the lead-up to the vote, casino opponents thought they were playing chess, where the pieces are clearly visible, and discovered afterwards when the casino proponents revealed their contingency plans that they were playing poker.
“The agreement accommodates the exact situation that resulted from the Nov. 5 election,” said Brian Falk, an attorney for Revere.
While Crosby said he believed the potential Revere-only plan had been written into the host community agreement, Commissioner James McHugh discounted what the negotiators “had in the back of their minds” and said the commission would need to investigate both ballot summaries.
After the meeting, Tuttle told reporters it has yet to be determined how the developers would split the parcel of land.
“Right now we have one parcel of land, 161 acres,” Tuttle said, noting the divide between casino and track would have to be “church and state” but said they wouldn’t “have to put the Berlin Wall up.”
Since Milford voters decidedly rejected a proposed Foxwoods casino on Tuesday, casino mogul Steve Wynn’s plans to build a casino resort along the Mystic River in Everett could emerge as the only contender in the east if the commission rejects the Revere-only option.
“We have the ability to negotiate even if there’s one,” Crosby told reporters, asserting that there would be no need to re-launch the application process in a region if there is one “good applicant.”
Wynn is tentatively scheduled for a suitability determination on Dec. 16.
The split vote has divided lawmakers previously aligned in favor of a casino. Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, of East Boston, has argued the Revere-only proposal “undermines the spirit and intent” of the law; Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein, of Revere, said she supports the Revere-only proposal, which she said is “viable.”
In a Nov. 20 letter to Crosby, Petruccelli quoted from the 2011 casino law to support his conclusion. “Because one host community voted in the negative, the Project proposed for Suffolk Downs is dead,” the senator wrote. Petruccelli also wrote that it was “false to argue that an alternative development plan on the Revere parcel is anything but a new proposal, which would require a new host community agreement and referendum . . .”
Rizzo has argued to the commission Revere voters should not have to take another vote to approve the project. In a letter, Rizzo said the question put to voters Nov. 5 asked whether they would support a gaming establishment on Suffolk Downs property off Winthrop Avenue and said the host community agreement with Revere was published on the back of every ballot and clearly stated the agreement would be reopened if the project moved across the East Boston border into Revere.
"As a result, Suffolk Downs may proceed with a new version of its project without having to ask Revere citizens to approve it a second time," Rizzo wrote.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who lives in neighboring Winthrop and has been a supporter of the horse track where his father worked, said this week that limited space on the peninsula where he lives would lead him to oppose a hypothetical casino in his hometown.
Unlike the original plans, which called for a resort casino wrapped into the grandstand of the track, the new plans would separate the casino from the track, which would remain in operation.
“This is a vast piece of land,” said Suffolk official Charles Baker, who said there are 42 acres that can be developed in Revere, and also said the development would secure a new casino operator before the Dec. 31 deadline to put its final application before the commission. He said, “They will be separate establishments.”
Baker said the plans will be before the Revere City Council on Dec. 2 and before the Planning Board on Dec. 3. He challenged the Gaming Commission to find another mile-oval in the state that would comply with wetlands restrictions, and said the Sterling Suffolk group had originally tried and failed to build a racetrack in Sterling.
Tuttle said a Revere-only casino would require the horse barns to be moved off-site, and said horse barns are often separated from race tracks on the east coast of the country.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s overwhelming defeat of a proposed casino in Milford and a string of losses statewide, a group of local officials are calling on Governor Deval Patrick and the legislature to rethink the future of casino gambling in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, an anti-casino group says it has the signatures necessary to put a referendum on the ballot repealing the law.
Members of the MetroWest Anti-Casino Coalition -- made up of selectmen from Hopkinton, Holliston, Medway and Ashland -- see the defeat of Foxwoods’ plans to build a $1 billion casino at Route 16 and Interstate 495 as just another sign that casinos may not be the right fit for Massachusetts.
“How do you reconcile the legislation that allows this with wave after wave of rejection?” Selectman Jay Marsden of Holliston asked.
“I don’t know how the legislation gets matched up with the fact that basically no one wants to take the plunge and take everything that goes along with saying yes to one of these things,” he said.
The governor, however, has no second thoughts.
Speaking Wednesday to reporters at the State House, Patrick said the law is working exactly as it’s supposed to.
“I think this is something we can do well if we do it the right way. I think the framework of the legislation is the right framework. This has never been central to our economic growth strategy; it’s, for most people, harmless,” he said, according to a transcript provided by Deputy Press Secretary Bonnie McGilpin.
State Representative Carolyn Dykema, a Holliston Democrat who has been a vocal opponent of casino gambling statewide and the Foxwoods proposal in particular, said she sees voters saying the cost of casinos is too high.
“It seems that towns considering casino projects are paying close attention to the details, weighing the economic potential against the costs to residents’ quality of life, and deciding that the costs are just too high,” she wrote in an email to the Globe.
“It’s hard to look at the results of the recent local votes and not question whether casinos can or should be part of Massachusetts’ future,” she wrote.
Meanwhile, the Repeal the Casino Deal campaign says it has collected and filed more than 90,000 signatures from across the state in its effort to put a question repealing the casino law on the 2014 statewide election ballot, according to the group’s spokesman David Guarino.
The group is optimistic the signatures filed by Wednesday’s deadline with local election officials will result in the certification of the necessary 68,911 needed to put the measure before voters. The signatures certified by local communities must be filed with Secretary of State William Galvin’s office by Dec. 4.
The campaign gained momentum after votes defeating casino proposals in East Boston and Palmer earlier this month and built through the final days of the Milford campaign, according to Guarino.
“This has been a huge grassroots effort,” he said. “After the East Boston and Palmer votes, hundreds of new volunteers signed up, and donations started to come in so we were able to pay some people to gather signatures.”
Tables were set-up to gather signatures outside polling places in Milford on Tuesday, and volunteers worked right up until Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline, he said.
“We’re very hopeful the necessary number of signatures will be certified allowing us to jump this next hurdle,” Guarino said.
In addition to gathering the signatures, Repeal the Casino Deal has also filed a court challenge of Attorney General Martha Coakley’s decision not to allow residents to vote to overturn the state’s casino law. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court allowed the signature drive to continue pending a hearing on the appeal.
Former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger is leading the appeal effort.
“This is a truly remarkable statewide, grassroots citizen movement,” he said, according to a press release from the group.
“This is still an uphill battle but we get stronger every day with more and more support around this great state for ending this bad idea. Our hats go off to the citizen leaders in community-after-community who are standing up to big money with grassroots might.”
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milford voters emphatically rejected a $1 billion Foxwoods-backed gambling resort on Tuesday, crushing a casino proposal five years in development, and shrinking the field of applicants for the state’s most lucrative gambling license.
The casino plan proposed by Foxwoods and its partners, the last of 11 original Massachusetts casino or slot parlor applicants to reach the ballot box, joins a prominent list of pricey projects to die at the hands of the voters.
“There was always a lot of opposition,” acknowledged somber Foxwoods chief executive Scott Butera, after the votes were counted. “We tried to change people’s minds and educate people, but we weren’t able to do it. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
The Bay State suburbs have proven to be the graveyard of casino dreams, and Milford voters followed suit, defeating the proposal 6,361 to 3,480 in a town-wide referendum. Turnout was 57 percent of 17,400 registered voters, according to the town clerk’s office.