The Next Step: Van Campen, Aldermen Raise Issue of Hotels Tax and Casino Agreements

Alderman at-Large Robert Van Campen and the Board of Aldermen opened the discussions Monday night about some of the next steps facing the city, now that casino developer Steve Wynn and his Las Vegas casino company have filed with the state for consideration of a casino license for an Everett-set casino resort.

On separate resolutions filed by Van Campen and others, the Board took the first step toward approving a future local option hotels tax in the city and requested a joint convention with the Common Council and Mayor DeMaria to discuss the potential parameters of a host casino agreement between the city and the developer.

Officially, the hotels tax resolution was referred to the Committee on Rules and Ordinances with a request to have the City Solicitor and Mayor DeMaria present to discuss it.

“We don’t have many hotel rooms in the city today,” noted Van Campen. “But we’re trying to be proactive here and if a casino resort and hotel are coming to the city, we want to be prepared for that.”

Similarly, the Aldermen have opened the discussion about a host agreement between the city and the casino developers. Under the state’s new gaming law, a host agreement must be negotiated by the developer with the host community. That agreement must not only be approved by the city, but must also pass the standards established by the Gaming Commission itself.

In making his case for having a Joint Convention of the Board of Aldermen and Common Council to discuss ideas for a host agreement, Van Campen noted that the Mayor’s administration has been very inclusive in its discussions so far, but said that he feels the residents of the city and the members of the two bodies would benefit from a Joint Meeting where ideas could be expressed and opinions sought.

Assistant City Solicitor David Rodrigues addressed the Board and indicated that informal negotiations between the developer and the Mayor’s office have already begun, but added that “you guys know everything we do so far,” pointing out that the Mayor has willingly shared all information he has had on the proposal to date.

“At this stage, we’re trying to get ideas from everyone and there will be big ideas and a lot of ideas and that will get smaller as we move through the negotiations,” said Rodrigues.

Common Councilor Michael McLaughlin, who co-sponsored Van Campen’s resolution seeking a joint meeting, indicated that he too was in support of a joint meeting to share information.

“I would like to ask that all of our residents keep an open mind as we move from pre-qualifying phase (Applicants submission of completed RFA-1) and enter into the next phase of this project (Host Agreement),” said McLaughlin in a prepared statement. “I feel very strongly that we as a community can come together and work on what we would like to see offered by Wynn, whether it be funding for our school system, funding for our City’s parks and playgrounds, funding for a new police and fire station or other ideas to better our city.”

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