State gambling commissioners will reluctantly move ahead with a plan to determine how much compensation Boston deserves from a Wynn Resorts casino in Everett, while still hoping the city and the Las Vegas casino giant can come to terms on a voluntary agreement.
The commission’s staff will research the possible consequences of a $1.6 billion gambling resort on Boston’s border, including potential effects on traffic in Sullivan Square, a notorious bottleneck often jammed with commuters.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Wynn officials have been unable to reach an agreement on a compensation package. Last week, Walsh announced he would not participate in arbitration hearings to decide how much the casino would pay the city to offset effects of the development.
The administration said there were too many unanswered questions about the proposal for the city to properly prepare a case in arbitration and accused Wynn of not providing critical documents. The company has maintained it has provided all the necessary information.
In declining arbitration, Walsh deferred to the gambling commission, which has the power to impose a compensation payment on the developer.
The commission’s acting chairman, James McHugh, said the panel has an obligation to protect Boston residents from any negative effects of a casino, even if the city declines to protect itself.
“We’ll gather information, and we’ll proceed to do the job we were appointed to do,” McHugh said at a commission meeting Tuesday.
Commissioners, who have said they want to award the Greater Boston casino license in September, are at least several weeks away from settling on a compensation package. McHugh suggested the board may hold a public hearing to take comments from Boston residents, especially residents of the Charlestown neighborhood near the proposed casino site in Everett.
The commission’s staff will ask Boston officials for help identifying potential effects of the development and will study thousands of pages of documents Wynn Resorts submitted as part of a routine state environmental review for large projects. The panel will also review Wynn’s “best and final offer” to the city, which the company prepared in anticipation of an arbitration hearing. The offer has not yet been made public.
Wynn Resorts is competing for the Boston-area license against a Mohegan Sun casino plan at Suffolk Downs in Revere.
Walsh has tried to win more power over the two developments, including the right for Boston neighborhoods to decide the fate of each project in a binding vote. But the commission denied Walsh’s request, and also rejected the mayor’s call to freeze the licensing process until after a referendum in November in which voters will decide whether to repeal the state casino law.
The mayor considered going to court to fight for Boston’s ability to vote on the projects, but instead agreed to a compensation deal with Mohegan Sun that would pay the city at least $18 million a year. It is the richest compensation agreement in the state for a community that does not have a casino proposal within its borders. The deal includes language that would reopen negotiations if Boston voluntarily reaches a less-lucrative deal with another casino applicant.