The City of Boston has opened a new front in its effort to halt the $1.7 billion casino planned for Everett, filing a lawsuit challenging the validity of a key certification that allows Wynn Resorts to begin construction.
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The new lawsuit shatters any notion of a compromise between Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn, who had traded insults and accusations for months over the proposed casino on the Mystic River waterfront but have recently appeared to be finding common ground.

The filing on Monday came less than a week after Boston appeared to suffer a setback in its other suit against the casino, which alleges that corruption underpinned the awarding of a license to Wynn. A Suffolk Superior judge questioned the city’s legal grounds for that suit.

The latest legal attack names Wynn as the defendant in a 41-page complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court and asks a judge to invalidate the environmental certification for the casino approved late last month by the Baker administration’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs.

In the lawsuit, the city asserts that Wynn and Secretary Matthew Beaton glossed over or ignored substantial concerns about how a 24-story casino and hotel complex would affect traffic, especially in Boston’s often-congested Charlestown neighborhood, which is near the site for the planned casino.

A Wynn spokesman, saying the company had not received the complaint from the city, sounded a note of exasperation.

“Once again, the City of Boston has not allowed Wynn to see their complaint directly, but instead has used the media to deliver its inflammatory claims,” the spokesman said in a prepared statement.

“We can only assume this claim is a restatement of their previous lawsuits, which thus far have been without merit,” the statement said. “This is certainly an unproductive way for the city to engage in a dialogue with our company, and will be unlikely to benefit the citizens of Boston; yet it is likely to force the citizens to carry the burden of ever-increasing legal fees.”

Walsh had signaled a possible rapprochement with Wynn Resorts last Wednesday, when he met quietly with two top Wynn executives at City Hall and later released a statement saying the two feuding parties were making progress in negotiations about the effect of the casino on Charlestown.

But the city’s complaint makes it clear that the conflict rages on.

Despite “numerous meetings with city officials,” Wynn “has consistently ignored the city’s concerns, failing to fully disclose the environmental impacts of its project and failing to provide clear and direct responses to the city’s comment,” the lawsuit says.

The filing repeats Walsh’s longstanding assertion that Wynn has underplayed how the casino resort could imperil the environment.

Wynn “failed to disclose the full extent of the serious environmental impacts” and “failed to demonstrate that all feasible measures have been taken to avoid or minimize those impacts,” according to the lawsuit.

“If the secretary’s decision is not declared to be invalid, Wynn’s project will generate severe damage to the environment, causing the residents of Charlestown and the Greater Boston area to suffer environmental impacts that will materially degrade their health, well-being, and quality of life,” the suit says.

The city estimates in its lawsuit that the casino will generate 20,000 to 23,000 new automobile trips per day by patrons and employees and that many of them will travel through the notoriously busy Sullivan Square rotary.

As part of the certificate he approved for the casino, Beaton required Wynn to participate in — and help pay for — a new transportation planning effort to address long-term traffic problems in and around the square. The effort would be led by the state Department of Transportation.

Beaton’s office did not respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Walsh confirmed the filing of the lawsuit and declined further comment.

The City of Boston is not going it alone in attacking the environmental permit. The City of Somerville filed a similar complaint on Friday, naming as defendants Wynn Resorts and the state Gaming Commission.

In its suit, Somerville officials argue that the traffic congestion from the casino will flow over into their city.

Gareth Orsmond, a lawyer for Somerville, wrote in the complaint that Beaton’s decision “kicked the can down the road, even though the road is already congested and there is no place for the can to go.”

Evelyn Addante, a retired transportation planner in Charlestown who opposes the Wynn casino, said she is glad Boston and Somerville filed these new lawsuits. She said she agrees that state environmental officials issued their permit prematurely.

“They didn’t answer our questions and they simply issued the certificate,” Addante said, “Everything is being streamlined for this project to move forward in an unfair way.”

Beaton’s proposal for a working group to address long-term traffic issues offered no assurance that the traffic problems will be fixed, she said.

“They developed a process, but a process is not an answer,” Addante said.

The industry group representing casinos, racetracks and sports books in 40 states where gambling is legal wants there to be no confusing it for illegal gambling linked to violent organized crime.
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American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman said Tuesday that illicit gambling damages the industry's credibility with policy makers and the public and steals away customers.

While the industry may have avoided shining a light on illegal gambling in the past so as not to attract unwanted attention to itself, Freeman and the group have made it a priority as they have been educating lawmakers and presidential candidates about the highly regulated industry.

"I'll take that exposure any day of the week," he said.

To make the distinction between legal and illegal gambling clearer, the association released a study from Jay S. Albanese of Virginia Commonwealth University looking at federal convictions nationwide in a single year, 2014, involving 40 illegal gambling operations that included online and offshore sports betting, unregulated casino parlors and wagers on animal fights.

Of those, the study looked at 10 cases of online sports betting and unregulated casino parlors linked to larger crime syndicates including the New York and Philadelphia Cosa Nostra families, a motorcycle gang and Texas drug traffickers that led to up to $68 million being seized in at least one case, or an average of $3 million each.

"Suffice it to say, the money was not going to college tuition," said Albanese at the association's annual Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas this week.

Illegal sports betting hasn't been a victimless crime, said Freeman and several former and current law enforcement officials. They said the money was being used to pay for other crimes.

"This is what oils the machine," said Ed Davis, former Boston Police Commissioner who sits on the American Gaming Association's illegal gambling advisory board that includes former Homeland Security and FBI officials. Unless investigators and prosecutors pay attention to it, more heinous crimes could follow, he said.

The push to curb illegal gambling has also been an opportunity for Freeman and others to criticize the 1992 federal law that restricted sports gambling to just four states, including Nevada and Delaware.

The association has often pointed to estimates that illegal sports betting has led to $150 billion in wagers annually, although no one knows for certain. The number is based on the most conservative estimate of the National Gambling Impact Study from 1999, $80 billion, increased to reflect gross domestic product growth since that time.

"It speaks to the utter failure of the law we have in place," Freeman said. "This is one that's completely ignored."

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Horseshoe Cleveland casino and the Rocksino in Northfield are among Ohio's top gambling venues, but their revenues lag far behind casinos in Detroit and Pittsburgh.
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In fact, 16 casinos or racinos in neighboring states had more gambling revenue during the last fiscal year that ended in June than Ohio's top draw, Horseshoe Cleveland.

Horseshoe Cleveland took in $218.6 million in adjusted gross revenue, defined as money kept by the casino after paying out winnings.

During the same 12 months, MGM Grand Detroit had $572 million, MotorCity Casino in Detroit had $460 million, Three Rivers in Pittsburgh had $348 million and the Meadows near Pittsburgh had $243 million.

Gambling revenue by state

State 2014
Nevada $11,009,684,000
Pennsylvania $3,069,077,597
Louisiana $3,064,060,321
New Jersey $2,742,127,708
Indiana $2,156,765,938
Illinois $2,124,864,454
Mississippi $2,070,156,510
New York $1,898,335,721
Missouri $1,660,096,597
Ohio $1,457,633,789
Iowa $1,396,000,360
Michigan $1,332,782,570
Maryland $931,092,017
Colorado $745,897,749
West Virginia $704,946,884
Rhode Island $550,911,852
Maine $540,482,950
Florida $507,454,166
Delaware $408,205,731
Kansas $353,539,249
South Dakota $100,508,525
Source: Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Revenue is for commercial casinos. In Michigan, this means only the three Detroit casinos are included, excluding tribal casinos elsewhere in the state.

Ohio's top five casinos or racinos ranked 17th to 21st among 44 commercial operations in the five-state region of Ohio, and neighboring Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the Northeast Ohio Media Group found in reviewing records from each state.

Next after Horseshoe Cleveland in revenues were Hollywood Columbus, Hard Rock Rocksino, Horseshoe Cincinnati and Hollywood Toledo. They were all in the $188 million to $209 million range. Thistledown Racino in North Randall was 31st at $115 million.

(A full chart is at the bottom of this story.)

In a 2009 analysis, the Ohio Department of Taxation projected that the four Ohio casinos would attract far more business, even while taking in account the addition of competing racinos in Ohio.

Cleveland was expected to be Ohio's busiest casino, at $473 million a year, according to the analysis done before Ohio's vote to legalize gambling. Columbus was predicted to generate $398 million yearly, Cincinnati $337 million and Toledo $215 million.

But Ohio's gambling revenue ranked 11th among 21 states during the calendar year of 2014, according to tracking by the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Among Ohio's neighbors, Pennsylvania was second and Indiana was fifth.

Ohio, at $1.5 billion in casino and racino revenue last year, ranked just below New York and Missouri and just ahead of Iowa and Michigan.

Nevada was far and away the leader with total revenue of $11 billion.

Three Ohio racinos - in Cincinnati, Dayton and Youngstown - were not open the entire year of 2014, but projecting their business over the full year did not change Ohio's ranking.

Nationally, state tax revenue from casino taxes in fiscal 2015 increased just 0.1 percent, after being adjusted for inflation, a study released in mid-September by the Pew Charitable Trust said.

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