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Gambling panel says Boston not a ‘host community’

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission ruled this afternoon that Boston is not a “host community” for either a casino proposed in Revere or one proposed in Everett.

The ruling, a “decision in principle,” is a blow for Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who sought to have the status declared so Boston could have more of a say on two possible projects on the city’s borders that are likely to have an impact on it.

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Walsh said in a statement that he was disappointed and would meet with his legal team “to evaluate all of the options available to us right now.”

The city declared last month that it was a host community to a Mohegan Sun proposal at Suffolk Downs in Revere and a Wynn Resorts plan for a casino in Everett. The two proposals are competing before the commission for the single license for a casino in Greater Boston allowed under the state’s gambling expansion law passed three years ago.

If the city had won the status, East Boston voters would have had the right to vote on the Suffolk Downs plan, while the city’s Charlestown neighborhood would have decided the future of the Wynn project.

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As mayor of a host community, Walsh could also have demanded millions of dollars in compensation from developers just to permit the projects to come to a vote.

Four members of the five-member commission voted for the ruling. The fifth member, commission chairman Stephen Crosby, recused himself earlier today, saying recent questions raised about his relationship to parties involved in the proposals made his participation “a distraction and a potential threat to our critical appearance of total impartiality.”

The commission said the city could apply for “surrounding community” status instead.

“The city of Boston, which has contingently applied to be a ‘surrounding community,’ is a ‘surrounding community’ with respect to both of those applications,” said Commissioner James F. McHugh, who chaired the meeting in Crosby’s absence.

The commissioners said they would follow up their unanimous “decision in principle” with a written ruling and a formal vote “ratifying” the decision next week.

Walsh said, “I have said -- and I truly believe -- that Boston is a host community to both sites, and I intend to continue to do everything in my power to protect our best interests.”

“The people of East Boston and Charlestown deserve the opportunity to vote. ... We have not made a decision about our next step, but we will share developments as they are available,” he said in the statement.

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