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Boston mayor wants to resume talks with casinos

May 1, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has won a week’s reprieve in his bid to have the city named a “host community” for casino proposals in neighboring Everett and Revere.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted Thursday to postpone its decision until at least May 8.

The commission held a public meeting to hear arguments from the city, the casinos and other groups and possibly issue a decision. But commission chairman Stephen Crosby said the panel received a letter late Wednesday from the Walsh administration seeking a stay of at least a week in order to “review new information which may be forthcoming from the applicants.”

Gov. Deval Patrick, in an unusual move, called Crosby to support the city’s request. According to Crosby, the governor suggested the parties could be close to a deal.

Walsh, who was not at the hearing, declined to elaborate on the “new information” his administration hopes to receive and the nature of his talks with the casinos.

“This casino thing is not a simple fix. I know people would like to have an answer on where the city is going,” he said at an unrelated City Hall event. “We’re trying to decipher what route to go with. It’s been difficult.”

A Wynn spokesman said the casino has not had any “substantive discussions” with the Walsh administration in 20 days. A Mohegan Sun spokesman did not say when the last time the casino met with city officials, but said the company will continue to answer any questions the city has.

Wynn and Mohegan Sun are competing for a single casino license in the state’s eastern region. Wynn proposes a casino in Everett, while Mohegan Sun proposes a casino on land the horse track Suffolk Downs owns in Revere.

Both casino operators oppose granting Boston host community status, which would give city residents an opportunity to vote on — and potentially reject — their proposals. The casinos say Boston should only get “surrounding community” status, which would entitle the city to some compensation from the casinos but not allow for voter referendums.

But Walsh, a Democrat who took office in January, has argued that city residents should be able to vote on the casino proposals since the projects would rely heavily on Boston’s reputation as a destination city, as well as its airport and other infrastructure.

The lead-up to Thursday’s meeting had been contentious.

Walsh had issued a letter saying the process violated the city’s due process rights and calling on Crosby, the gambling commission chairman, to recuse himself. Crosby declined.

The controversy around Boston’s community status has pushed back a previous target for awarding the eastern region casino license by June. The commission now expects to award it by August, at earliest.

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