MGC Grants Waiver to Mohegan Sun, Suffolk for Late Vote

Get ready for another trip to the ballot box.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) officially granted a waiver to Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun to hold a second referendum ballot question in Revere concerning the duo’s new Revere-only casino.

With little discussion, the Commission voted unanimously to grant the waiver.

“I kind of hate to just let this slide through without comment,” said Chairman Steve Crosby. “We have wrestled hard with trying to figure out how to reconcile the ‘no’ vote in East Boston with the ‘yes’ vote in Revere. And there is no perfect solution. There’s nothing clear in the law or the regulations that tells us exactly what to do. We’ve been trying to figure out what’s the fairest way to go forward. “Commissioner (James) McHugh came up with a very, I think, creative and substantively helpful approach that I think we all agree with,” he continued. “I think we’re to the fact that it’s an imperfect situation. There’s no perfect reconciliation here. But I can’t think of a better way to try to reconcile this issue. And I appreciate Commissioner McHugh coming up with it. I just want to note that we are sensitive to the fact that there are competing interests and competing passions on this. And we are doing the best that we can to figure out a fair and a reasonable way to approach it.”

The vote would come 60 to 90 days after Mohegan Sun officially requests it, and that cannot be done until a new Host Community Agreement is signed between Mohegan and the City – an agreement that was revealed late in the day this past Monday.

It is likely that the vote would take place at some point in mid-February, but until the agreement is signed, the date of the vote cannot be set.

Commissioner James McHugh was the originator of the compromise that called for a new vote and a new agreement via a waiver during a meeting on Dec. 10.

The deadline for the rest of the application, including the agreement, is still Dec. 31. That application includes lengthy discussions of the proposed casino’s plans, layout, host community agreements and details.

Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun officially made the request in writing to the MGC not long after the Dec. 10 meeting, saying they still believed the Nov. 5 Revere vote allowed them to proceed but that they would follow the direction of the MGC.

“Sterling Suffolk, Mohegan Sun and the City agree to proceed in the matter approved by the Commission on Dec. 10, notwithstanding their continuing belief that, with appropriate amendment, and assignment of the Revere HCA, the November 5 Revere election supports an application by Mohegan Sun for a Revere-only gaming establishment,” read the filing. “Accordingly, this petition constitutes the request of Mohegan Sun and the City for a waiver…and their commitment to hold a vote conforming to the requirements [of state law] within 60 to 90 days of Mohegan Sun’s request for a referendum after entering into a host community agreement.”

Suffolk and Mohegan Sun also argued in the filing that the public interest is better served with the waiver – given that the public will be able to look at the full Phase 2 application prior to any vote.

“By allowing the election to take place after the application deadline, the voters of Revere will have before them not only the host community agreement between Mohegan Sun and the city, but also for at least a majority of the 60 to 90 day pre-election period, the Mohegan Sun [phase 2] application,” he said. “The application will give the voters of Revere a more complete picture of the proposal than has been available to voters in any other host community…Finally, the citizens of Revere have a strong interest in a casino in their community. Not granting the waiver would significantly frustrate those efforts.”

The waiver was, however, opposed by the City of Boston. Boston’s Law Department sent a letter to the Commission saying East Boston

“Although requested, the Commission has not provided the City with a copy of the waiver application,” read the letter. “Therefore, in the absence of review of the waiver, and any meaningful information from the applicant, the City of Boston opposes the waiver of any requirements requested by Suffolk Downs/Mohegan Sun to the [MGC’s] regulations. The integrity of the East Boston vote must be respected and maintained.”

In other news, a timeline produced by the MGC showed that the license is scheduled to be awarded in mid-May, and that two host community public hearings in Revere would take place in late April. Such meetings are a requirement in the process, and this month are being held for communities involved in the slot parlor licensing process.

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