Casino Opponents Sue MBTA Over Sale Of Land To Wynn
A group of casino opponents has filed a lawsuit to stop the sale of land owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to Wynn Resorts.
The lawsuit contends that the sale was conducted in violation of the state’s public bidding laws by negotiating in private and not putting the land out to public bid. The suit argues that the 1.75 acres of land that Wynn intends to use as the main entrance to the casino was sold for 80 percent below what it would have gone for on the open market.
Wynn purchased the land from the MBTA for $6 million in March but reportedly was willing to pay an eight figure price for the property. The eight figure number being reported stems from a MassDOT memo that suggested the value of the land—with Wynn’s planned improvements—was in the $30 million range. The $30 million figure included additional land that was not part of the final land deal between the two parties. Additionally, the MBTA put the property up for sale publicly during the summer of 2014 but did not receive any bidders.
The MBTA declined to commenting on the suit as it is pending litigation.
The Baker administration placed the land in escrow after Gov. Charlie Baker’s energy and environmental affairs chief Matt Beaton declined to issue them a crucial permit because a necessary review of the property by the Department of Environmental Protection had not been completed. Under the conditions of the escrow Wynn has to return the property to the MBTA if an environmental assessment in accordance with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act is not properly conducted.
The parcel in question plays a key role in the ongoing slapfight between Boston and Wynn as it would allow Wynn to minimize its exposure to the congested Sullivan Square rotary.
The lawsuit includes as plaintiffs casino opponents John Ribeiro, the Winthrop man who spearheaded the unsuccessful attempt to repeal the state gaming law at the ballot box in 2014 and Celeste Myers, the East Boston woman who successful fought the original plan to bring a casino to Suffolk Downs in 2013.
It’s the fifth lawsuit that has been filed since the lone eastern Massachusetts casino license was awarded to Wynn in September 2014.