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Everett town official responds to critiques of casino ideas

Posted by Your Town  January 14, 2013 02:14 PM

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 14, 2013…..Withholding judgment on whether he approves of a casino proposal for Everett, a city official who represents the area that might house a Wynn Resorts casino said he invites officials from surrounding cities to keep an open mind about the project.

“I can’t say if I’m in favor or against the proposal, because I don’t know what the proposal actually is, and I think they should have the same approach to this, which is they’re willing to hear the process out, learn more specifics about it, and maybe at the end of the day it does benefit their communities,” said Michael McLaughlin, a member of the Common Council, the lower chamber in Everett’s bicameral legislative body.

Wynn’s proposal to build a resort casino on the site of a former Monsanto Chemical plant on the banks of the Mystic River has encountered resistance from neighboring municipalities.

Last week, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he had not been consulted about the plan, though he said access to the site would need to pass through Boston land. Menino favors a rival casino plan at the Suffolk Downs horse track. Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone has said he would advocate against a casino going up across the river and the Medford City Council reportedly voted 5-2 against the idea in December.

Menino pointedly laughed while telling reporters that no one had contacted him about the Everett proposal, intimating that he might have a say because of where the property sits near the Boston border.

“And you know something? And to get into the piece, you have to go through my property. Aha. They never spoke to me,” Menino said at a press conference last week. Asked about the Everett casino, Menino said, "Nobody's ever talked to me about it. I only read the newspaper accounts. I haven't met anybody who has represented the other folks, from Everett.”

While Menino is hoping to join the discussion of a casino in a neighboring city, he has resisted calls from some critics to allow the entire city of Boston to vote in a referendum on the plans at Suffolk Downs, which straddles the border between East Boston and Revere, opting instead to poll only the city residents who live in the neighborhood close to the site.

“My position has always been neighborhood vote,” Menino said last April, according to the Associated Press. “It affects mostly the people of East Boston, and the people of East Boston should have a say in it.”

Suffolk Downs has long been seen as the frontrunner in the competition for a single available casino license in the eastern Massachusetts region, but Wynn appears to be making a move for an alternative.

Wynn had previously sought a partnership with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft at Gillette Stadium, but backed out after Foxborough voters selected anti-casino candidates in a local election.

Developer Dave Nunes has discussed building Crossroads Casino in Milford, but as of Friday he was not among the developers who have gone through licensing meetings with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Phase one applications are due on Tuesday.

“The one thing I am concerned by is that everybody feels that Everett is the less likely place to have a casino than Revere. I don’t think we have anything less than Revere does, to offer,” McLaughlin told the News Service, touting the site’s location along waterfront. McLaughlin said that Menino, Curtatone and others from surrounding municipalities should be included in Wynn’s discussions.

“All the surrounding communities, whether it’s Somerville, Medford, Boston, obviously Charlestown’s right across the other side of the bridge, everybody should have a seat at the table. There’s no one city that’s affected by this. It’s a regional project,” McLaughlin said. McLaughlin, who represents Ward 6 in the city, said that the Boston land is not part of the development proposal and he thinks access to the site might come through Route 16 in Medford, as opposed to Chemical Lane on the Boston side.

“In that case it has nothing at all to do with that parcel of land whatsoever,” McLaughlin said. “It’s completely out of the picture. With that being said, Boston will still, or should still have a voice in it.”

For Everett, the casino is the best chance yet to redevelop the former Monsanto site, which is polluted with semi-volatile organics, according to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

“Nobody here’s come to the table as aggressively or seriously as the Wynn Resort Group,” said McLaughlin, about the developer’s interest in the site.

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