BOSTON -- Attorney General Maura Healey clearly needs to brush up on the rules on the casino license process, but she won't let that stop her from an aggressive swipe at one developer. In an interview with CommonWealth Magazine, Healey accused the Wynn project of being allowed to play "by a different set of rules" - allegations that turned out to be false - forcing her own staff to acknowledge the AG's blunder. Healey's missteps came as she struggled to defend her attack on the development as being motivated by anything other than a "Not-In-My-Backyard" attempt to attack development she doesn't like in her home of Charlestown.
AG defends her casino position -- but gets some facts wrong
But now Healey is raising more than traffic concerns, suggesting in an interview withCommonWealth that Wynn has been allowed to play “by a different set of rules.” Healey said the Massachusetts Gaming Commission awarded Wynn a casino license before the developer had completed its state environmental review under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, typically known as MEPA. She described the arrangement with Wynn as unprecedented, a case of putting the cart before the horse.
But Healey has some of her facts wrong. The environmental review of the Wynn Resorts project is taking an unusually long time, but it isn’t an aberration. Contrary to what Healey says, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved casino licenses for both MGM and Wynn before the applicants received MEPA certificates. In both cases, the licenses were conditional on the applicants completing the MEPA process successfully. Each of the applicants was treated the same way under a process developed by the Gaming Commission in collaboration with state officials and regional planning agencies. The regulations establishing that process were reviewed by former attorney general Martha Coakley.
MGM and Wynn both obtained their conditional licenses on November 6, 2014. MGM went on to receive its MEPA certificate on December 31, 2014. Wynn recently submitted its third application for a final environmental permit, which the state’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs is scheduled to rule on by August 28.
An official with the attorney general’s office acknowledged Healey was mistaken about MGM, but expressed doubt about whether the casino licenses issued to Wynn and MGM were actually conditional. The official noted the two companies each paid $85 million in fees to the Gaming Commission after receiving their licenses. Wynn paid on November 6 and MGM paid on November 17. The Gaming Commission insists the casino licenses were conditional on the applicants obtaining MEPA certificates and other permits.
What follows is an edited transcript of the interview with Healey, conducted last Thursday in her Boston office on the 20th floor of 1 Ashburton Place.
CW: Do you think it’s unfair for journalists to point out where you live and your opposition to casinos?
HEALEY: That’s not what I meant. To the extent that people think I’m carrying water for the people of Charlestown or the mayor of Boston or the residents of a particular neighborhood, it’s just not the case. I bring with me an independence and a commitment to looking at the facts, the data, the law, and common sense as a problem solver. Right now we’ve got a problem over there. We’ve got a problem and somebody’s got to fix it. Of course you can mention I’m from Charlestown. Of course you can mention that I was against casinos. It’s all fair game. It doesn’t control what I do. It doesn’t influence what I do. Do I have a particular understanding of I-93 and Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue because I travel back and forth to Assembly Square or Home Depot or the Christmas Tree Shop? Yeah, I do, because I live there and shop there and the like. But the traffic in that area preceded my time and tenure as a Charlestown resident and hasn’t gotten any better. So I think that anybody who attempts to travel up and down 93, you see the backup on to 93 from the Sullivan Square exit. It’s a little scary and dangerous, so I think I’m pointing out something that’s clear on its face to anyone who travels on I-93, not just anyone who happens to live in Charlestown.