Boston Mayor Thomas Menino continues to toy with casino developer Steve Wynn, who is trying to build a $1.3 billion casino on the Mystic River waterfront in Everett. Menino has hinted more than once that part of Wynn’s development may be in Boston, which, if true, would give the mayor clout to kill the plan.
But Menino’s judgment on this issue may be clouded by his strong support for a competing casino plan at Suffolk Downs in East Boston. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which oversees the casino licensing process, should step in and settle the issue before Menino further complicates the process.
Under the state gambling law, a casino plan can’t move forward without an agreement with any municipality deemed to be a “host community.” Everett voters have approved such a deal, in which Wynn promised that city at least $25 million a year. If Boston were also deemed to be a host of Wynn’s site, Menino could simply decline to negotiate such an agreement with him, thus killing the plan. Menino has stated in the past that Wynn would “have to go through my property,’’ in reference to a small twist in the city line that touches an edge of the former chemical site in Everett. But so far, Boston has presented no compelling evidence that the actual development Wynn has proposed would be within the city’s borders.
Instead of maneuvering for new leverage against Wynn, Menino should be attending to casino business in Boston. He has yet to strike a final agreement with Suffolk Downs over the potential impact on traffic, public safety, and public health should the racetrack owners be granted the casino license for the Greater Boston area. The deadline for striking such an agreement and putting it before voters is Dec. 31.
Menino does have some legitimate business to conduct with Wynn, because neighboring communities have the power to seek concessions from casino developers; they just lack the de facto veto power host communities can exercise. A Wynn casino in Everett would indeed affect the already congested roadways into Boston — and especially the Sullivan Square section of Charlestown. Wynn will need to find ways to alleviate those potential jams. Menino should concentrate his efforts on negotiating a fair mitigation deal.
Wynn isn’t going away, no matter how much Menino might want to clear the field for Suffolk Downs. The mayor should stop running interference for the track and make sure that Bostonians are well-served no matter where the casino ends up.