Gaming Commission Blocks Boston’s Request to Stall Casino License Process

They said it would be bad for public policy to stay a decision about granting a license in the area.

Image via Gaming Commission.

Image via Gaming Commission.

The board responsible for awarding gambling licenses in Massachusetts denied Mayor Marty Walsh’s request to stall the process in the Greater Boston area until November, when voters will decide through a referendum if they want to repeal the state’s casino laws.

In a unanimous decision, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission rejected the mayor’s proposal, which would have put a stop to the issuance of a casino license in what’s known as “Region A” until later this year.

“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,” said Commissioner James McHugh, after hearing hours of testimony from both sides of the argument at Wednesday’s hearing at Bunker Hill Community College.

Commissioner Gayle Cameron backed McHugh’s sentiments, and agreed that it’s in the best interest of public policy to advance without sidelining the licensing procedure any further. “Moving forward with the licensing process is the prudent way to proceed for all of the reasons already stated,” she said.

The vote was swift, and there was minimal discussion about the subject once a motion was put on the table. “The voters will make their judgment…and the voters will decide what the outcome will be,” said Commissioner Enrique Zuniga, before the motion was accepted, and the matter was closed.

Walsh’s request to postpone the process came after the Supreme Judicial Court ruled last month that a question about repealing the state’s gambling laws could appear on the November ballot. He was disappointed with the commission’s decision. “It was an opportunity for us to save the taxpayers a lot of money here and allow us the opportunity to have a real discussion around what the voters of Massachusetts want, but pretty much not to my surprise they took the action they took today,” Walsh said.

The state approved the Expanded Gaming Act in 2011, creating the Gaming Commission and allowing for three casino licenses and one slots gambling license in Massachusetts. The commission is in the process of awarding the licenses, but has already given a license for a slots parlor to be built in Plainville.

The commission is expected to award a license for the Greater Boston region by the end of September or early August. Mohegan Sun and Wynn Resorts have both submitted proposals to build casinos nearby.

The casinos have been proposed in Revere and Everett, and Boston officials have argued that the city should be considered a “host community” due to the impacts the resorts could have on the area. Much like Wednesday’s unanimous decision, that argument was also shut down by the commission. Walsh’s adminstration is mapping out their next steps, which could include a legal battle.