Massachusetts: Concerns Raised by Proposed Boston Harbor Expansion

Massachusetts: Concerns Raised by Proposed Boston Harbor Expansion

Boston Harbor Hotel Logo
Boston Harbor Hotel’s Logo (PRNewsFoto/Boston Harbor Hotel)

Amid legal questions over where gambling is permitted, Massachusetts gaming authorities are reconsidering the 2013 referendum in which Everett residents supported the establishment of the Encore Boston Harbor casino. 

The casino officials are attempting to expand the property’s gambling options into a new construction across the street from the existing establishment.

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Planning to Develop a New Facility in the Market 

According to the State House News Service, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is attempting to clarify just what city voters voted for nine years ago. In the interim, Encore’s parent company, Wynn Resorts, plans to develop a new facility across Broadway from its resort to house a dedicated poker room, a second sports betting parlor, a new nightclub, a theater, and a parking garage, among other amenities.

In March, commissioners determined that an earlier version of Wynn’s project, which did not feature any gaming sections, would not be considered an official gaming institution. Thus, the additional space would not fall under the jurisdiction or oversight of the commission, a result for which Encore Boston Harbor had advocated.

Wynn Resorts Modified Their Expansion Plans To Include Gambling And Betting

Since then, Wynn has altered its growth plans to incorporate both casino gambling and sports betting, which would necessitate oversight by the state Gaming Commission. Nonetheless, this proposal places Encore Boston Harbor in an unfamiliar area, both for the firm and for the regulatory authorities.

Commission general counsel Todd Grossman stated this week, as reported by SHNS, that the state’s casino gambling statute is “silent” on expansion of gaming operations outside the area of the present gaming business. As a result, the proposed shift is producing legal confusion among commissioners as they assess the expansion’s ramifications.

MGC Revisiting 2013 Referendum 

When the previous proposal was presented to the commission, one of the questions addressed was whether the 2013 citywide referendum would be adequate to cover the additional property. Due to the commission’s determination that the proposal was not part of the gambling establishment, this question was never asked.

Currently, the situation has changed. “This question must now be answered,” said Joe Delaney, the commission’s chief of community affairs, on Wednesday, noting that the new plan would need to be a part of the gaming institution to operate.

The MGC must determine if the language of the 2013 referendum authorized casino gaming only at the location named on the ballot, or if voters approved Wynn’s casino license in general. Nearly a decade ago, voters were asked, “Shall the City of Everett approve the operation of a gambling establishment licensed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to be placed at the land formerly known as the Monsanto Chemical Site on Horizon Way (off ‘Lower Broadway’) in Everett?”

While the state’s gaming law required the referendum language to include a description of the proposed location, another section of the law states that if a majority of voters approve the referendum, “the host community shall be considered to have voted in favor of the applicant’s license,” according to the State House News Service.

The Wynn and Everett community agreement includes the possibility of future construction

The analysis hinges on whether commissioners will understand the legislation to suggest that voters approved of Wynn’s license in general, or if they would see the placement of the specific piece on the ballot as evidence that voters approved of that specific site.

According to Tony Starr, an attorney at Mintz Levin who represents Wynn Resorts, the first recital in the host community agreement between Wynn and the city of Everett includes the possibility of future construction on land other than the current site of Encore Boston Harbor.

Acquiring Land to Land Options 

The agreement’s recital states: “Wynn, directly or through an associate, has acquired or will acquire land and options to buy land in and around the area indicated in Exhibit A (the ‘Project Site’) in the City.” Exhibit A was a map of the place where Encore Boston Harbor is currently located.

The MGC has not yet made a judgment about the company’s request, despite the fact that commissioners, lawyers, and Everett and Wynn representatives addressed the topic at length on Wednesday. The commission has instructed Wynn to provide a presentation detailing the old Monsanto chemical site’s limits for the next hearing.

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About Lou De Aguila

Lou Aguila is a news and feature writer for Golden Casino News. For over a decade, Lou has published news and featured articles for some of the most reputable sports betting and online casino sites in the world, including BetNow.UK, VegasOdds, and BWin. Apart from being a hardcore live casino punter, he also covers sports stories in North American leagues from time to time.