The Four Cards Mayor Walsh Can Play to Stop the Wynn Resorts Casino

The city is running out of options to fight the $1.7 billion project, so now what?

Planned Wynn casino in Everett. Rendering by Wynn.

Planned Wynn casino in Everett. / Rendering by Wynn

Mayor Marty Walsh’s fight to stop the Wynn Resorts casino in Everett is on the ropes.

On Thursday, Judge Janet Sanders delivered a crushing blow to Walsh when she dismissed all of the claims against the project in scathing terms.

In her ruling, Sanders chose not to address all of the city’s claims, describing them as “pled in a scattershot fashion,” but still managed to blast the city for what she deemed to be “spurious” and “speculative” claims that discredited Boston’s argument. The lawsuit sought to not only stop the construction of the $1.7 billion 24-story Wynn project, but to blow up the entire Massachusetts Gaming Commission in the process.

Sanders blasted the city’s lawsuit against Wynn for being unnecessarily long and falling “far short of alleging facts” that could help it prove Boston was harmed in a court of law.

Based on conversations with Boston legal experts, it appears Boston’s options to stop the Wynn casino have been reduced to four options that will have questionable success:

1. Appeal in state court.

This option is unlikely to go very far given the striking rebuke of the city’s lawsuit and the skyrocketing legal bill for the months long battle. Boston has forked over $1.3 million for the services of attorney Tom Frongillo. That’s more than the city would have received from Wynn this year as part of a commission negotiated surrounding community agreement.

2. Fight in federal court.

This alternative legal option would probably go nowhere unless Boston could find a way to battle the Everett casino project on federal grounds. “It would be hard for them to make something different enough from their state filings that would appease federal judges,” said one attorney speaking anonymously. Additionally, a federal lawsuit would be engaging in the practice of “claims splitting,” something that is generally frowned upon.

3. Make permitting difficult for Wynn.

No legal experts strongly recommended this as an option for Boston, however they did suggest it as a tactic the city could use, but only with extreme caution because it would open up Boston to potential civil rights lawsuits and even expose Walsh personally to financial damages. Boston has expressed strong concerns about the casino exacerbating traffic in the Sullivan Square area ever since Wynn was awarded the license.

“Anyone reading the news knows Boston has demonstrated severe animus toward Wynn since they won the license. Any effort to stonewall permits for roads and construction in the Sullivan Square area and Wynn could could easily argue in court that their civil rights are being violated,” said another legal expert.

4. Pray Mohegan Sun wins their case.

Sanders did not dismiss Mohegan Sun’s lawsuit against Wynn on Thursday, leaving the door open for continued legal action. Mohegan Sun wants the entire licensing process for the lone eastern Massachusetts casino license thrown out and rebooted. It was a very surprising ruling because the state gaming law specifically blocks losing applicants from going to court over this issue. Sanders said Mohegan Sun has a “justifiable right” to continue their lawsuit in court because of their investment in the licensing process.

In separate statements, Wynn and Everett officials along with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission sounded as if they believe this is the final battle with Boston over the resort casino. Pre-construction activity in Everett began in September.

Commonwealth Magazine reported on Friday that Walsh sounded ready to give up his legal battle with Wynn and the Commission. Walsh did not tip his cap as to what the city is going to do next, but he did say that the nasty relationship between Wynn and City Hall was on the mend.

“We’ve been having somewhat productive conversation and we’re going to continue to have those, hopefully,” Walsh said.

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