Mohegan Sun joins lawsuit against gaming commission
Mohegan Sun joined the cities of Revere, Somerville, and Boston on Wednesday in suing the state Gaming Commission in an effort to block casino mogul Steve Wynn from building a planned $1.75 billion casino on the waterfront in Everett.
Mohegan Sun, like the others, is asking a judge to invalidate the commission’s award of the coveted Greater Boston casino license to Wynn because, in the words of the most recent filing, the commission showed “extreme favoritism” toward Wynn Resorts.
The lawsuits ask that the process of selecting a casino operator begin anew.
Mohegan Sun, in partnership with Suffolk Downs, competed against Wynn Resorts for the casino license, which was awarded in September. The Mohegan Sun plan called for a casino to be built on the Revere side of the sprawling Suffolk Downs race track site, and would have included thoroughbred racing.
The 47-page lawsuit portrays the commission as becoming “enamored with the person” of Wynn, who for decades has created and operated a slew of highly successful casinos in Las Vegas and Macau, and who has cultivated a personal reputation as a consummate showman and impresario.
The commission, instead of judging the application strictly on the merits, became “enchanted” with Wynn “because he’s Steve Wynn, with an attractive personality,” said Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, which owns the Mohegan Sun casino and resort in Uncasville, Conn.
“We have been treated unfairly,” Etess said in an interview. “It has not been a level playing field.”
Mohegan Sun, for many years after its opening in 1996, reigned supreme, along with its rival, Foxwoods Resort Casino, as the only legal Las Vegas-styled gambling emporiums in New England. But as casinos have proliferated along the East Coast, revenues at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods have slipped.
An even greater impact on revenues is expected with the advent of casinos in Massachusetts.
Etess said on Wednesday that Mohegan is committing considerable time, money, and effort to overturn the commission’s decision.
“This was a very big deal — Boston was a big one,” he said. “It’s definitely a significant thing.”
The suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, is not a separate action, but is an addition to the pending lawsuit that the City of Revere filed in October.
In its filing, the Mohegan Sun claims it has been “substantially harmed by the commission’s numerous violations of its statutory obligations, and its arbitrary and capricious actions throughout the process.”
It alleges that the commission unfairly allowed Wynn Resorts to change its proposal, cites the indictments of persons who previously owned the land where the casino is to be built, and alleges that commission members acted improperly in conducting gaming commission business privately.
In awarding the license, commission members said they favored the Wynn plan, in part, because a commission analysis concluded it would create more jobs and pay higher wages, would spend more on goods and services with local businesses, and would invest more than twice as much in the physical construction of the resort. Wynn also had a more secure financing plan for the development, the commission review found.
Responding to the Mohegan suit, the commission on Wednesday released a statement saying that it “went to great lengths to conduct an extraordinarily thorough and meticulous licensing competition that adhered strictly to an established set of well documented and highly publicized evaluation criteria.”