Mayor Martin J. Walsh is appealing to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to delay any decision on casinos near Boston until voters decide whether to repeal the state’s casino law in the November elections.
Citing a ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court this week allowing the repeal question to go to the ballot, Walsh said the city’s appeal aims to prevent the “needless expenditure of additional time, money, and effort’’ at a time when the future of casino gambling is unclear.
The commission is preparing to award the Boston-area resort casino license this summer to either Mohegan Sun for a proposal in Revere or Wynn Resorts for a proposal in Everett.
“The city respectfully requests that the Gaming Commission stay all proceedings before it concerning the issuance of a Category 1 License’’ in the Boston area, Walsh said in a letter to the commission. “Whatever the outcome of the November ballot initiative, it is prudent to pause and await the result.”
Walsh said his office sent the letter Thursday to chairman James McHugh and the panel’s three other members.
At a news conference this afternoon, he said the city was facing an “unprecedented situation right now” because of the high court decision.
Members of the gaming commission, who were in a public meeting when Walsh made his announcement Thursday afternoon, could not immediately respond to his statements.
Dan Rizzo, the mayor of Revere, said in a statement that the process should continue.
“I have the utmost respect for Mayor Walsh and appreciate his concerns; however, voters in Revere have come out twice in support of jobs, economic development, and new sources of revenue. We have complied with all laws as set forth in the legislation and have adhered to all rules of the commission,” Rizzo said.
“A timeline has been announced and they should stick with it. It’s also worth noting that two other licenses have been granted with full knowledge that there could be a ballot question — this is no different. Mohegan Sun has reached 11 other surrounding community agreements. I can see no reason for further delays,” he said.
Bill Mulrow, chairman of the board at Suffolk Downs, which would be the site of the Mohegan Sun casino, urged the commission to stick to its timeline, saying “we are dismayed by the approach [Mayor Walsh] has chosen.”
But the Repeal the Casino Deal campaign issued a statement lauding Walsh’s action.
“Now that it’s clear the people will have a chance to vote yes to repeal casinos, smart leaders like Mayor Walsh see the wisdom in slowing the Gaming Commission’s rush to the slots table. The economy is growing, cranes are up in every skyline in Massachusetts, jobs are coming back. The people of Massachusetts know we can do better and the people should be heard before any decisions are made,” said John Ribeiro, chairman of the group.
Walsh’s decision came two days after a ruling by state’s highest court touched off a contentious referendum campaign over one of the most charged issues in a generation and put at peril the future of a potential billion-dollar industry in Massachusetts.
Walsh noted that the court took aim at Attorney General Martha Coakley, saying she erred in refusing to certify an initiative petition to prohibit casino gambling on the November ballot. The SJC ruled that the initiative should be decided by voters, and ordered Coakley to certify the petition, the mayor added.
“I was gratified to learn that the citizens of Boston will finally be given the opportunity to vote on this critical issue,’’ Walsh said in the letter. “We will know in a short time whether or not casino gambling will be permitted in Massachusetts.”
The mayor said that if casino gambling is prohibited, the issue of gaming in the Boston area will be “moot.
“If it is allowed, I remain hopeful that the citizens of Boston will be able to vote on whether or not they approve of the pending proposals’’ in the area, Walsh said.