The City of Revere and a union representing some Suffolk Downs employees filed a lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) last Thursday, with the MGC quickly firing back in saying the suit was simply the result of “sorely disappointed” folks who did not get a casino license.
The MGC had rejected a similar last-minute objection from Mohegan Sun the day after (Sept. 17) it voted to give the license to Wynn Resorts. That letter, which came to the MGC at 10 p.m. on Sept. 16, also objected to unfair treatment. MGC Commissioners uniformly rejected the letter at that time.
This Thursday, though, the City of Revere and Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) jointly filed the suit. IBEW represents 145 workers at Suffolk Downs whose jobs potentially could be eliminated when the 79-year-old track ceases operations later this year.
The suit was in contradiction to early comments by Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo, who said he was frustrated by some of the actions taken by the MGC, but didn’t believe there would be any lawsuits from the City of Revere.
The lawsuit reflected some of Rizzo’s early frustrations and read that the MGC Commission “acted arbitrarily and capriciously, abused its discretion, violated provisions of the Gaming Act, gave Wynn unequal (and better) treatment than other gaming applicants, and treated other applicants unfairly and inequitably” in awarding a gaming license to Wynn. The suit asks the court to vacate the decision and order the MGC to award the Region A license in accordance with the Gaming Act.
“By its acts and decisions, the Commission has completely violated the letter of the Gaming Act, the purposes behind the Gaming Act, the Commission’s own regulations and procedures, and provisions of the Massachusetts Constitution,” read the lawsuit.
However, the MGC fired back in saying they were confident the decision would stand – noting it was a comprehensive and fair process, though maybe disappointing to those who lost.
“The Gaming Commission anticipated and understands that applicants and other invested parties, who are unsuccessful in their bid for one of the limited number of highly-coveted expanded gaming licenses, are going to be sorely disappointed,” read a statement issued late last Thursday. “We have seen that intense disappointment express itself in a number of ways, including legal action and even false accusations of bias against the Commission. This latest effort is yet another manifestation of disappointment from invested parties after a lengthy evaluation and public deliberation process that was based solely on the merits of competing proposals.”
Specifically, the suit charges the MGC with violating the state’s Open Meeting Law and outlines in detail a variety of Gaming Commission failures, including the enabling of a casino to be opened in Everett that fails to mitigate the significant traffic problems it will create; and that allows Wynn to evade employment promises, economic development projections and other commitments made during the application process.
“There are a number of troubling and alarming failures by the Gaming Commission that raise serious questions about the entire process of awarding the Region A license,” said Rizzo. “From inequity in the process, to a failure to require adequate community mitigation, to ignoring potential criminal activity associated with the Everett land, the Commission has in almost every regard failed to live up to its obligations under the Gaming Act.”
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria’s office didn’t have any immediate comment on the lawsuit.
Wynn Resorts said the issues raised had already been vetted in public.
“These are all issues which have been thoroughly vetted in public,” said Michael Weaver, senior vice president of marketing. “We are thrilled to have been designated by the MGC following their exhaustive process.”
Those in the Casino Repeal campaign jumped on the suit as hypocritical in light of the Revere-only casino proposal that was allowed to move forward after East Boston had rejected a casino at the ballot box.
“Now the Gambling Commission’s decisions are unfair?” asked John Ribeiro, chairman of Repeal the Casino Deal. “The corrupt casino culture rears its ugly head once more on Massachusetts’ main political stage. Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun were all too happy to play the game when they looked to benefit from the Gambling Commission’s propensity to change the rules as they went. Recall it was a mere sleight of hand by the MGC to allow the ‘Revere-only’ proposal to move forward after East Boston residents resoundingly defeated the ballot referendum last year.”
Other points of contention in the suit were:
•During deliberations last month, Commissioners expressed doubts about the potential inflation of job, salary and other numbers provided by Wynn in its license application. Yet at the last minute, the Commission inexplicably eliminated a provision that would require Wynn to comply with the numbers submitted in that application, despite similar license conditions for MGM and Penn National.
•The suit charges that the Gaming Commission gave Wynn Resorts “preferential treatment” compared to other gaming applicants, specifically by providing Wynn with the opportunity to resubmit its application and provide substantially new information on material aspects of the project such as site design and traffic mitigation. No such opportunity was given to Mohegan Sun and its competing application for a gaming license in Revere. Mohegan Sun, however, was allowed to propose new financial plans and marketing plans at a similar time.
•The suit also alleges that the Gaming Commission failed to include at least a dozen conditions on Wynn that are mandated by law, including those relating to environmental remediation, neighboring community obligations, project labor and labor harmony agreements, pedestrian safety, investor suitability, audit requirements and a lottery agreement, among others.
• The suit also raises questions about the Gaming Commission’s treatment of the City of Boston, including that it allowed Wynn to withhold vital information and that it failed to adequately take into account Boston’s concerns about criminal connections associated with the Everett site. Further, the Commission’s decision allows Wynn to open a casino without making any meaningful improvements to Sullivan Square, despite the fact that 70 percent of Wynn’s traffic will come through that congested intersection.
“We represent 145 decent, hardworking people who are facing uncertainty and severe hardship as a result of a flawed process and flawed decision by the MGC. These people deserve every consideration that we can provide them under the law and we’re going to keep working on their behalf,” said John Dumas, Business Manager of IBEW Local 103.