BOLSTERED BY A JUDGE’S FAVORABLE RULING, Mohegan Sun said on Friday that it plans to challenge the way in which the Massachusetts Gaming Commission last year awarded a casino license to its rival, Wynn Resorts.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders on Thursday tossed out challenges to the license award filed by the cities of Boston and Revere and a group of union workers, but allowed Mohegan Sun to press its claim that the Gaming Commission violated provisions of the state gaming law in awarding the license to Wynn. Mohegan Sun wants the license revoked and rebid.
The Mohegan Sun ruling didn’t get much attention initially because the city of Boston’s battle with Wynn and the Gaming Commission grabbed all the attention. The ruling was also a bit of a surprise because the gaming law itself specifically prohibits challenges by unsuccessful license applicants, but Sanders allowed Mohegan Sun to proceed under a separate statute.
The decision potentially has huge implications for efforts by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to get casinos up and running in the state and for efforts by Connecticut to fend off casino competition from the north. Mohegan Sun can now try to block Wynn Resorts from buildings its $1.7 billion casino in Everett. Mohegan Sun is already laying plans to build a casino in the Hartford area with its Connecticut rival Foxwoods to blunt competition from MGM Resorts, which was awarded a license by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to build a casino in Springfield.
Mohegan Sun issued a statement saying it looked forward to the next stage of the legal process. “We are pleased Judge Sanders found Mohegan Sun is entitled to court review of its position that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission ignored several statutory provisions of the Gaming Act, and we continue to believe the entire Commonwealth deserves an impartial review of the commission’s decision on the Wynn license. We are disappointed, however, that both the city of Revere and city of Boston have been denied the same opportunity – when both communities have significant and legitimate grievances with the commission.”
In its complaint, Mohegan Sun made many of the same arguments as Boston and Revere. But Sanders tossed their claims and allowed Mohegan Sun to continue because she believed the casino developer had a “justiciable right” that arose from spending time, effort, and close to $30 million in pursuit of a Massachusetts casino license and yet felt it was “subject to a licensing process that violated provisions of the Gaming Act.”
Michael Weaver, a spokesman for Wynn Resorts, said the judge’s ruling would have no impact on the company’s casino plans. “Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun’s ongoing attempts to sue the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Gaming Commission will not impact our construction plans or schedule. We look forward to opening our five star resort and competing vigorously with Mohegan Sun,” he said in a statement.
Officials at the Gaming Commission said they were still reviewing the Mohegan Sun decision and had no immediate comment. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has made no final decision on whether he will appeal Sanders’s ruling, but his tone Friday morning indicated he was ready to move on.