The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has authorized Mohegan Sun to apply for a license to build a casino on land owned by Suffolk Downs in eastern Massachusetts. However, a new voter referendum on the project will have to take place.
Seeking to avoid a scenario that would have left just one applicant for the lone casino license available in eastern Massachusetts, the five-member gaming commission voted unanimously Tuesday to waive a requirement that a casino applicant secure the approval of local voters before filing a final license application.
This will allow Mohegan Sun to negotiate a host community agreement with officials in Revere and seek voter approval for the project –likely by the end of February—providing the Connecticut-based gaming company does everything else required to file an application with the commission by the December 31st deadline.
Commission chairman Stephen Crosby called it a fair solution.
The fate of the casino proposed at the Suffolk Downs thoroughbred race track property, which straddles Revere and East Boston was left in question on Election Day when voters in Revere approved it, but East Boston voters turned it down. Suffolk Downs then shifted to a Revere-only plan, which raised the question of whether Revere residents should be required to vote on a dramatically altered plan.
Commissioner James McHugh ,who argued that a new vote in Revere was necessary, made the motion to waive the rules to allow a second vote to occur without changing the timeline that has been established to award casino licenses this spring.
" This is fair to everbody--not happy for everbody--but it seems to me it is fair. It allows voters to go to the polls and do what the statute envisions."
Casino opponents in East Boston have vowed to fight a casino in neighboring Revere.
Wynn Resorts, which won voter approval back in June for a $1.3 billion casino development in Everett, is the only other competitor for the eastern Massachusetts casino license.
Mohegan Sun partnered with Suffolk Downs after voters in Palmer rejected the company’s $1 billion proposed casino by a 94 vote margin in November . Commissioner Enrique Zunica said Mohegan Sun should be given a chance in Revere since the company has already passed a background check in Massachusetts.
" It is not as if somebody else is parachuting in the middle of this that could then make the casino bidders elsewhere say this is unfair."
Casino supporters in Palmer were dispirited when Mohegan Sun shifted its focus to the east even before a recount in late November confirmed the defeat of the casino project. Town Councilor Paul Burns is urging the casino company to pursue an alternative development.
" I think is is vitally important that we actually develop something on that site that can provide jobs and economic development for the community."
In the wake of the voter rejection of the casino in Palmer, Mohegan Sun said it would pursue a non-gaming project on the land it controls, but has offered no details about its plans.