State designates Cambridge as ‘surrounding community’ for Everett casino

Originally published March 25, 2014 in the Cambridge Chronicle.

Cambridge will benefit from mitigation funds whether or not the state awards a casino license to Wynn or Mohegan Sun after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted Thursday, March 20, to designate the city as a “surrounding community.”

In late January, Mohegan Sun voluntarily agreed to give Cambridge the designation, making the city eligible for a mitigation agreement. As part of the deal, Mohegan Sun will give $50,000 to the city annually and made promises to help promote the tourism industry in Harvard Square.

Wynn refused to give the same designation to Cambridge for its proposed casino in Everett, with representatives saying they did not believe the city met the standards of a surrounding community, as defined under the state’s gaming law, said Lee Gianetti, communications director for the city of Cambridge.

“The Wynn-Everett representatives believed that Cambridge would experience no impacts from a casino being located in Everett,” Gianetti said.

Gaming Commission communications director, Elaine Driscoll, said Wynn and the city now have 30 days to hammer out an agreement or face an arbitrator. City Manager Richard Rossi said getting the designation as a surrounding community was the first step towards an impact mitigation agreement.

“Now that the surrounding community designation issue is resolved, I believe we can engage in meaningful dialog and negotiations to represent the interests of Cambridge residents and businesses with Wynn-Everett,” Rossi said.

Gianetti wouldn’t say specifically what sort of mitigation they will be looking for from Wynn, but said the city is “looking for ways to ensure that Cambridge businesses and residents can benefit from any positive economic or tourism gain to the region.”

Surrounding communities have the right to negotiate with an applicant to mitigate potential impacts, Driscoll said, which could include impacts to traffic, construction-related noise or environmental degradation, or operation-related impacts to public safety, regional water or sewer lines, retail, entertainment and service establishments and increased social service needs.

“City government has a responsibility to ensure that if a resort casino is sited in Everett that we have a seat at the table when issues impacting Cambridge arise,” Rossi said.

Representatives from Wynn did not return a request for comment. According to their website, the casino and resort would add 4,000 permanent and 3,700 construction jobs with over $1 billion invested for projects’ costs, infrastructure and beautification investments, including a traffic improvement plan.

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