Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has managed to put the casino licensing process on hold long enough for Boston to make an argument that it deserves host community status for proposed casinos in Revere and Everett.
At a dramatic hearing at the Boston Convention Center in South Boston, Walsh showed up to address the Massachusetts Gaming Commission personally.
"The importance of this issue to the residents of the city of Boston brings me here today," Walsh said. "The potential impact of the casinos goes to the core of the quality of life of our neighborhoods."
Tom Frongillo, a private attorney working for the city, argued that Boston should be a host city for a proposed casino in Everett because the only way to get there is on a Boston street and because the developer, Wynn Resorts, has partnerships with the Boston Symphony and the TD Garden.
Frongillo also argued that Boston should be a host city to both the Revere and the Everett casinos because people would use Boston roadways, public transportation and Logan Airport to get to either casino.
Frongillo asked the commission to rule on Boston's request to be a host community before considering what cities receive the designation of surrounding community.
Residents of host communities can stop a casino. Surrounding communities cannot.
"The cart is being put before the horse on this issue of surrounding community status," Frongillo said. "The host community status has to be addressed first."
"Don't come in here and say that we're putting the cart before the horse," Gaming Commission Chair Steve Crosby fired back. "What you want to do is rearrange the cart and the horse."
Crosby told Frongillo that Boston's request to be a host community comes too late.
"It has been resolved," Crosby said. "Don't be disingenuous about this. This process has been going on for a long time. This specific issue has been addressed at least twice. The host community issue started last summer and has been resolved."
But ultimately commission members did come around to supporting Boston's request. They decided that they would hold a hearing on the request within two weeks.
And so, with his last-minute intervention, Walsh has managed to put a cog in the wheel of the two casino proposals, at least for a while. If the commission rules in his favor, Walsh would get to negotiate a host community agreement with both casinos, and he would push for a vote in Charlestown on the Everett casino and in East Boston on the Revere casino.
"All I want is to make sure that the people of both of those communities have a chance to say and express how they feel through the vote," Walsh told reporters after his appearance.
For now, the gaming commission has only agreed to consider Boston's arguments. There's no indication that commissioners are ready to reverse their earlier finding that Boston is not a host community.
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