Massachusetts loses bid to toss Boston lawsuit on casino
Posted: Friday, July 10, 2015
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts gambling regulators on Thursday lost their bid to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Boston challenging the award of the state’s most lucrative casino license to Wynn Resorts.
In a lengthy hearing covering three lawsuits related to the Wynn project, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders denied the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s request to dismiss Boston’s lawsuit outright. The commission had argued that the city’s 153-page lawsuit was “effectively unanswerable” because it was so verbose.
The judge, addressing a range of other issues Thursday, also rejected Boston’s efforts to begin taking testimony from witnesses in the highly charged case.
Sanders said she’ll hold a Sept. 22 hearing to consider the state’s other arguments for throwing out the lawsuit. Among those arguments is that the casino licensing competition and award process is not subject to judicial review.
Thomas Frongillo, a private attorney representing Boston, said the case raises serious questions about the integrity of the state’s gambling regulatory process. “This is a significant case for the public,” he said, arguing that Boston’s lengthy complaint was warranted because the alleged misconduct pervaded virtually every aspect of the multiyear licensing process.
Boston and two other cities — Revere and Somerville — have filed separate lawsuits against the commission. The cities say commission members bent rules time and again to favor Wynn’s project over one by Mohegan Sun for the Suffolk Downs horse racing track in Revere. Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs workers also are plaintiffs in Revere’s lawsuit.
Among Boston’s many allegations are that commission members changed application rules and regulations to benefit Wynn and that Wynn representatives knew criminally suspect figures had an ownership stake in the former chemical plant site they hope to develop.
Boston recently issued 17 subpoenas to current and former state officials and others tied to the project. It alleges that former state troopers working as private investigators for Wynn may have known about the criminal ties to the property, a revelation the city says should lead Wynn to lose its license, if proven true.
Wynn, which is not a party in any of the three lawsuits, has threatened to sue Boston for defamation.
Revere also has asked the court to start the discovery process in its case. But Judge Sanders on Thursday ruled that such evidence gathering is premature.
“There are serious issues that need to be address here first,” she said.
Sanders, meanwhile, granted Somerville its request to continue its lawsuit against the gaming commission, pending the state’s review of the traffic and environmental mitigation plans for Wynn’s $1.7 billion resort casino complex for the industrial Everett waterfront across from Boston.
The three lawsuits are among a number of hurdles facing the state’s marquee casino project.
A group of Massachusetts taxpayers also have filed suit challenging Wynn’s casino project. That complaint is against Wynn and the state transit authority, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and focuses on a controversial land deal between the two.
Wynn is one of three licensed casino operators in Massachusetts. MGM is building an $800 million resort in Springfield, and Penn National Gaming operates Plainridge Park, a recently opened slots parlor in Plainville.
Lawsuits against Massachusetts Gaming Commission remain in play
Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, is pictured a at a public hearing in West Springfield. The commission is facing lawsuits from Boston, Somerville, and Revere, among others. (DAVE ROBACK / THE REPUBLICAN FILE)
on July 09, 2015
BOSTON - A Superior Court judge on Thursday kept alive a flurry of lawsuits against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and tied to the panel’s awarding of an Eastern Massachusetts casino license to Wynn Resorts.
The city of Boston, one of three cities suing the five-member panel of gambling regulators, alleges that the commission acted unethically and violated its own rules by giving the license to Wynn for a planned casino in neighboring Everett. The other cities make similar claims. An outside attorney hired by the city of Boston, Thomas Frongillo, says Boston was also denied “host community status,” despite the expectation that three-quarters of the Wynn casino’s traffic will go through Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood.
Earlier in the day, at a Gaming Commission meeting in South Boston, its chair Stephen Crosby defended the commission’s licensing. “Because the gaming establishment is not in Boston,” he said, when asked why Boston wasn’t designated a “host community.” “It’s right in the (state gambling) law. It’s pretty straightforward. If the gaming establishment is in a community, it’s a host community. If it isn’t, it isn’t.”
He added, “We believe we have abided by all the rules and have treated everybody fairly and have extended ourselves on behalf of many of the parties, to be sure they had a fair shot.”
The commission awarded the resort casino license to Wynn, which plans to build a $1.7 billion facility in 2014. Wynn is hoping to open the casino in 2018.
Here are several takeaways from the two-hour hearing in Suffolk Superior Court, which drew a standing-room-only crowd to watch a face-off between attorneys from the Gaming Commission; the cities of Boston, Somerville and Revere; and Mohegan Sun, which was Wynn’s rival for the license:
1. Judge Janet Sanders – who also recently handled the Partners HealthCare unsuccessful expansion bid - rejected an argument from attorneys for the Gaming Commission who said that the city of Boston’s 153-page lawsuit should be thrown out because it was too long. “The claims are meritless in addition to being too long,” said the commission’s outside attorney, David Mackey, before the judge denied the commission’s motion. The Gaming Commission is expected to take another tack in a new push to dismiss the Boston lawsuit later in July.
2. Judge Sanders encouraged the Gaming Commission to keep providing records to the plaintiffs outlining the commission’s decision to award the casino license to Wynn. The commission says it has already provided 108,000 pages of documents, but they had held some back, citing privacy and competitive casino information concerns.
3. But the subpoenas the city of Boston pushed for are on hold until the judge makes further determinations on which lawsuits move ahead. Most of the subpoenas deal with allegations of improper access to a “wiretap room” in the state attorney general’s office. The subpoenas allege that private investigators working for Wynn received access to the room. The Gaming Commission became aware of the allegations last week, when it received the subpoenas, the commission’s lawyers said. The commission’s investigations bureau is now looking into the claim. Wynn, which was not included in the city of Boston’s lawsuit against the commission, has denied the claims in the subpoenas.
4. The next big court date is in September. Judge Sanders set Sept. 22 as the day for a hearing on motions to dismiss several of the lawsuits and other legal requests. Be prepared for another couple of months of fierce fighting, through legal letters and in the press, between Boston City Hall, the Gaming Commission, and Wynn Resorts. Earlier this week, Wynn threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against the city and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh over “your campaign of falsehoods,” particularly what was included in the subpoenas. A city of Boston spokeswoman said earlier in the week Walsh stands by all the assertions city of Boston attorneys have made.