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Dispute between Everett and Boston over proposed Mystic River casino still lingers

Posted by Your Town  August 22, 2013 02:54 PM

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A dispute between Everett and Boston over a proposed Mystic River casino appears to have no end-date even as deadlines loom for casino licensure, Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said Thursday.

“It is pretty near time if it isn’t time, for us to intercede and say this has got to get resolved by a day certain or we will resolve it ourselves,” Crosby said at the commission meeting.

The southeastern region is also facing an uncertain path in the licensing process, as one developer in New Bedford is suing the state and the tribe seeking to build a casino in Taunton is awaiting the outcome of state and federal hurdles.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has asserted that the capital city owns the road leading into the site in Everett site, a polluted area along the river that used to house a Monsanto Chemical facility. There is a small industrial section of Boston across the Mystic from the rest of city and surrounded by Everett.

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria has accused Menino of trying to “bully” Everett and gaming officials.

“Where you have two parties that are spatting in public, it makes everything look disorganized and suspect and political. There are allegations of bullying and brow-beating and so forth,” Crosby said. “The public doesn’t know if we’re being bullied or not. And we aren’t, and I don’t want anyone to think that we are.”

If Boston qualifies as a host community for the Everett site, Menino could stall out the process by refusing to negotiate a host community agreement. Menino, who is not seeking re-election this year, has been more welcoming to a proposal that spans East Boston and Revere at the Suffolk Downs race track. Meanwhile, casino license applicants have until Dec. 31 to submit their phase two applications, which must include a host community agreement and a successful referendum vote.

“We’re running out of time. If Boston is a host community that’s going to be an incredibly elaborate process to negotiate a host-community agreement. If it’s a surrounding community, it’s also going to be a very elaborate process,” said Crosby.

Crosby wanted to set a date in the next two weeks for an adjudicatory hearing, where the commission could settle the matter, but Commissioner James McHugh raised concerns that although the dispute has bubbled into the public, neither side has brought the matter to the commission for a judgment.

“What are our range of options? It’s easier if they petition us,” Crosby told reporters before the subject came up at the meeting. The commission settled on inviting both parties to speak with them at the next meeting.

In Taunton, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is awaiting a vote in the Legislature on a gaming compact between the tribe and the state, which would then need federal approval. The tribe is also seeking federal approval for its land-in-trust application, which would allow the Mashpee to build its casino on a reservation.

The federal Department of the Interior rejected an earlier compact, and the Gaming Commission has opened up a second licensing track for commercial licensees in the southeast region.

In New Bedford, KG Urban Enterprises, was recently allowed to continue with its lawsuit against the state and tribes, which contends the 2011 gaming law gave discriminatory preference to Native American tribes. On Thursday, the commission met in a closed-door executive session to discuss ongoing litigation with KG.

“The tribe is doing its own thing, on its own track, managed mostly by federal law, and we have opened up southeastern Mass. to the same exact process that the other two regions are going through, just a few months behind,” Crosby told reporters.

Commercial bidders in the southeastern region, one of three regions in the state where a casino license may be granted, have until Sept. 30 to submit the $400,000 application fee.

Asked whether KG would be the only commercial applicant in the southeastern part of the state, Crosby said, “There are other people talking about it, but we don’t know yet.”

Though the last day of the year is the due date for applications municipalities and developers that want to be considered for a license will need to set processes in motion well ahead of that.

A host-community agreement between a city or town and a developer must be signed 60 days ahead of a voter referendum. A gaming official said to avoid votes during the holidays, October is likely the deadline for establishing a host community agreement.

Cities and towns determine who in local government negotiates the host community agreement. In Boston, Menino is in charge of negotiating the agreement, and the vote will take place in the East Boston neighborhood where the proposal is located “unless the City Council says they want it to be a citywide referendum,” Crosby said.

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