Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Mohegan Sun have come to an agreement that would give the city at least $300 million in direct investments over 15 years. The money is supposed to offset impacts on traffic and businesses if the gambling company wins a state license to build a casino in neighboring Revere.
Meanwhile, Boston did not come to an agreement over impacts to Charlestown from a competing proposed casino from Wynn Resorts in Everett.
Considering that the Mohegan casino wouldn’t even be within Boston city limits, this is a lot of money. Boston would start with $18 million per year, ratcheting up to nearly $23 million if the casino business is good. There’s an additional $30 million over 10 years for road improvements in East Boston.
Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, says this deal is about being good neighbors.
"This is not just simply about the agreement and the cooperation of today," Brown said, "but a demonstration of the type of organization and the type of business that we run, and the cooperation that the [state] gaming commission will see out of us into the future if we’re awarded the license."
For his part, Walsh calls the deal a good one for East Boston residents. He says the negotiation with Mohegan officials was long and difficult, but productive.
"They were great in our case. We were basically throwing things on the table. And you know, we had to push obviously to where we got to," Walsh said. "But for the most part, they pushed back a bit on it, but everything that we pretty much wanted we were able to achieve."
However, Boston did not achieve agreement by Thursday’s deadline with Wynn Resorts.
Walsh says he never got enough information to be able to assess the impact on Boston’s nearby Charlestown neighborhood. And he says the transportation improvements offered by the company were not as generous as Mohegan’s.
"On the Wynn side, they wanted to pay us interest on loans that we would take out to be able to build and fix Sullivan Square and Rutherford Ave.," Walsh said. "That is not a win for the city of Boston."
"I don't think you're going to see me out there touting Mohegan Sun should be the preferred selection. But I certainly know that they were a lot easier to deal with and work with in this process."Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
A Wynn spokesman says the company offered Boston a package worth millions of dollars per year and has submitted its best and final offer to state arbitrators. Boston did not submit an offer, leaving the negotiation up to the state gaming commission.
Even so, Walsh says he’s not asking the commission to give a license to the Revere casino over the Everett one.
"I mean I don’t think you’re going to see me out there touting Mohegan Sun should be the preferred selection," Walsh said. "But I certainly know that they were a lot easier to deal with and work with in this process."
You won’t see the mayor out there touting any casinos. There’s a referendum on the November ballot to repeal the state gambling law and stop the developments in their tracks. Walsh says it’s his job as mayor to get the best deal for residents if there are casinos, but he’s not asking for them. At least not yet.
"I mean, I voted for the casino legislation on Beacon Hill. But I haven’t decided if I’m going to take a public position on the ballot question," Walsh said.
The mayor’s reticence underlines the opposition in East Boston to a casino steps away in Revere. Voters in the neighborhood had rejected a previous casino proposal straddling the border, but they can’t nix this one, because it’s not within Boston.
John Ribeiro, from the anti-gambling group Repeal The Casino Deal, says the mayor’s agreement with Mohegan says something.
"What it shows is that even the mayor of Boston has no power to stop the casinos, and the gaming commission is beholden to no one," Ribeiro said.
And Ribeiro says the $300 million over 15 years is not a gain for Boston — but just reimbursement for all the damage a casino would do.
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