The Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners unanimously agreed that the competition for the only Boston-area casino license will push on. On July 2, 2014, the Commission held a public hearing to discuss a request by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to delay the proceedings until after the vote in November on the casino-repeal ballot measure. Walsh sought the delay following the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling that the ballot measure to repeal the gaming law was constitutional. Walsh’s request also came the day after the Commission concluded public hearings on the Wynn and Mohegan Sun casino proposals.
Mayor Walsh argued that the voters should have the opportunity to vote on whether they want the casino law to remain in effect at all. In his original request to the Commission on June 26, 2014, he noted that if proceedings continue and “voters choose to repeal the law, all parties involved will risk losing significant time and millions of dollars for nothing.” Specifically, Boston city attorneys argued that negotiating contracts with the two casinos would constitute a huge expenditure, when voters could simply repeal the law in just a few months. Walsh unilaterally called off talks with the casinos until after the Commission’s ruling on his request for postponement because of his concerns about the cost of negotiations.
After hours of testimony from both sides, the Commission denied the mayor’s request. In reaching this conclusion, Commissioner James McHugh said, “I think that it is not appropriate at this stage to grant a stay, but instead it is appropriate to move forward and proceed with our licensing process.” Continuing with the licensing process was characterized by Commissioner Gayle Cameron as “the prudent way to proceed.” Commissioners noted that area residents should be fully informed about where the casino will be built prior to voting on the repeal.
In response to the Commission’s decision, Mayor Walsh said that a postponement would have been “an opportunity for us to save the taxpayers a lot of money here and . . . to have a real discussion around what the voters of Massachusetts want.” Walsh claims that, ultimately, he was not surprised by Commission’s decision.
As it stands, Commissioners anticipate a decision on the license by late August or early September 2014. In addition, the Commission released a revised timeline for casino proposals, which sets a deadline of July 30, 2014 for submission of the arbitration report between the City of Boston and the two casino license applicants.