Hundreds of people from all over the region packed into the South Boston Convention Center on Tuesday evening to make their voices heard on the Mohegan Sun casino project in Revere at a public input hearing before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC).
While a strong contingent from Winthrop came out to blast the casino plan and its proponents – Mohegan Sun – Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash said he is of a completely different mind than Winthrop officials.
Ash said he prefers the Mohegan project for several reasons, and he has had no such experience with Mohegan being untrustworthy.
“One day after they announced the partnership with Suffolk Downs, Mohegan’s CEO was in my office at City Hall,” said Ash. “He didn’t have to come and I didn’t expect him to, but by him coming it showed me how much importance they attach to the surrounding communities like Chelsea.
“I’ve seen in Mohegan a real commitment to regional benefit that I haven’t seen any of in the Wynn effort,” Ash said, noting that negotiations between Chelsea and Wynn are still ongoing. “Mohegan has eight surrounding community agreements successfully negotiated; Wynn has just one. Mohegan has stressed its partnerships with communities and businesses around the region, while Wynn has spent much more time thinking about just Everett. I can tell that Mohegan will be a real partner in the region’s growth; Wynn has given me no reason to feel the same.”
Ash was one of hundreds of leaders, elected officials and residents that testified before the MGC on Tuesday.
He prefaced his comments by saying he doesn’t want to demonize Wynn, but simply believes Mohegan will be a better partner for Chelsea.
“I preface this by saying that I don’t think we should demonize anyone that is willing to invest $1 billion in our area, and am convinced that both Mohegan and Wynn are good casino operators,” he said.
One of the biggest benefits to Mohegan, he said, is saving the horse racing industry at Suffolk Downs. He said having the horse track at the casino separates Mohegan from the competition.
More importantly, Ash said he believes Mohegan will open its doors before Wynn.
“I believe Mohegan will be up and operating far quicker than Wynn, which has chemical contamination to clean-up and much more traffic related issues to still be scoped out, yet alone solved,” he said. “By selecting Wynn, we may be forgoing years of having all the jobs and more than a half a billion dollars in revenues. Those are too great of sacrifices to make.”
Finally, Ash said he believes Mohegan is better because it is next to a T stop, close to Revere Beach, the Winthrop Golf Course and – most especially – Logan Airport.
“I don’t think we should be bringing national and international patrons into a heavy industrial area like Route 99 in Everett,” he said.
Council President Matt Frank – the Council’s casino designee – said he still prefers Mohegan as well.
“I still think it’s a good project for Chelsea,” said Frank.
A similar public hearing at the MGC took place for the Wynn project in Everett late yesterday, March 26.