The two feuding sides in the bitter battle over the opening of a $1.7 billion casino in Everett sat down together on Wednesday, one day after a judge seemed to cast doubt on the City of Boston’s bid to block the casino.
The meeting between Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston and top executives of Wynn Resorts signaled, at the very least, a thaw in the chilly war of words that over the summer had one side charging corruption and other threatening a defamation lawsuit.
But the meeting could also portend the beginning of the end of Boston’s lawsuit challenging the validity of the casino license awarded to Wynn Resorts.
The site planned for the casino is a short distance from the city’s Charlestown neighborhood, where a casino could be expected to add traffic to already congested roadways.
Both sides were tight-lipped about the details of the late-morning discussions on the fifth-floor of City Hall. Steve Wynn, the billionaire founder of Wynn Resorts who has made the harshest public statements about Walsh was not present, suggesting that a full rapprochement had yet to be achieved.
But statements issued after the meeting sounded a positive note.
“Mayor Walsh is exploring all options to resolve this matter on behalf of the people of Charlestown and the city of Boston,” Walsh’s statement said. “This includes conversations with Wynn officials around whether or not there is such an opportunity. Today’s discussions were productive and they will continue.”
“Each week, we make great progress in moving our project forward; our dialogue with the city of Boston is a part of that process,” Wynn Resorts said in a statement.
The lawsuit filed against the state Gaming Commission is the last major stumbling block before Wynn can move ahead with construction of a 24-floor, curved glass tower on the Mystic River waterfront.
The city has filed hundreds of pages of legal documents in its claim that the commission’s award last year of a coveted casino license to Wynn was “the product of a corrupt process.”
The lawsuit challenges virtually all of the panel’s actions leading up to its vote to award the license to Wynn instead of a competing proposal from a partnership comprised of the owners of Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun.
The lawsuit portrays the commission as having deliberately favored Wynn by violating state statutes, gambling regulations, and codes of ethics.
The commission has denied wrongdoing, and its lawyers have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
During a 2½-hour hearing in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday, Judge Janet Sanders appeared to be weighing the possibility of dismissing the lawsuit, saying she was not sure a judge should “wade into” a matter already handled by an administrative agency such as the Gaming Commission.
A settlement of the lawsuit likely would involve lucrative concessions from Wynn to get the city’s support for his casino. The money would help offset the negative effects of a casino on Boston’s border, including increased traffic in Charlestown’s Sullivan Square.
Walsh had reached an agreement with the competing casino proposal for Suffolk Downs in Revere that would have brought at least $18 million a year to Boston. But he was unable to reach a similar accord with Wynn.
In August, Walsh and Wynn sharply disagreed in public over what was said in a telephone call between the two men.
“I’ve had enough of Mayor Walsh,” Wynn told Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi. “I can’t negotiate with him. The man is obviously irresponsible.”
That prompted this retort: “I don’t know what he means by he’s had enough of me. But I interpret that as he’s had enough of the people of Boston, because I represent the people of Boston. And if he has a problem with the people of Boston, he better rethink as far as how he negotiates.”
The meeting on Wednesday included Walsh, Wynn Resorts president Matt Maddox and general counsel Kim Sinatra, and Eugene O’Flaherty, the city’s top lawyer.