Legal fees mount as Boston, other cities, sue state over awarding Wynn a casino license

Industries Associated Press

Lawsuits challenging Massachusetts' decision to award Wynn Resorts a gambling license have come with a hefty price tag.

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The state Gaming Commission and three cities involved in the legal fight — Boston, Revere and Somerville — have spent more than $1.4 million combined since the first complaints were filed in October, a review by The Associated Press has found.

The cities, which each have filed separate lawsuits, want the court to nullify the commission's decision and revoke Wynn's casino license. They have accused commission members and Wynn officials of misconduct and corruption at nearly every phase of the two-year competition.

The cumulative costs for the litigation, to which Wynn is not a party, are sure to increase if a state judge allows any or all of the lawsuits to move forward.

The Gaming Commission has until July 31 to file motions to dismiss the complaints; the judge will consider those arguments Sept. 22.

The lawsuits by the three cities also could have major consequences for the state's nascent casino industry.

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Wynn's $1.7 billion plan for the Everett waterfront across from Boston was envisioned as the crown jewel of the state's growing casino empire, which also includes the Plainridge Park slots parlor that opened recently in Plainville and an $800 million resort casino MGM is developing in Springfield.

Leaders of the three cities this week defended their decisions to take the state to court.

"We are a nation of laws, not men," Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said in a statement. "Yet throughout the Greater Boston area licensing process, we have seen the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and the Commonwealth itself change the rules."

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the city's $684,718 in legal bills — by far the largest among the entities involved — represents a necessary expenditure to protect city residents, particularly in the Charlestown neighborhood, which will feel the brunt of traffic to the Wynn casino.

In Revere, Mayor Daniel Rizzo says his city's nearly $350,000 in legal costs come at no cost to taxpayers: Mohegan Sun is picking up the tab.

The administration says the city's host community agreement with the Connecticut-based casino company remains in effect, despite Mohegan Sun's loss to rival Wynn.

"We do not believe that the residents of Revere received a fair outcome," Rizzo said in a statement. "The city has lost many millions of dollars in improvements, revenue, and jobs as a result of the Gaming Commission's flawed and tainted process."

Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver said its disappointing Revere, in particular, is allowing itself to be "used" by the Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun and denying thousands of casino-related jobs and millions in tax revenue for Massachusetts.

"The longer Mohegan Sun can delay our resort in Massachusetts, the more money they generate for themselves and the state of Connecticut," he said.

The Gaming Commission, which declined to comment on the pending lawsuits, says it has spent $320,000 to on representation from Anderson & Krieger. The Cambridge-based firm has five attorneys on the case whose rates run from $250 an hour for an associate to $430 an hour for a partner, the commission says.

Before then, state Attorney General Maura Healey's office represented the agency. Healey's office said its costs were "minimal" but declined to elaborate.

Boston, meanwhile, has contracted the law firm of Fish and Richardson for its lawsuit, filed in January.

The city's lead lawyer is Thomas Frongillo, a former assistant U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, who's earning $490 an hour. Ariel Raphael, another lawyer on the case, earns $350 an hour, according to city records.

Revere, which filed suit in October, is being represented by James Cipoletta, a Revere attorney who bills at $375 per hour.

The city also has retained two lawyers from Mirick O'Connell, a Boston firm it used in its negotiations with Mohegan Sun. They're billing $390 and $300 an hour.

Somerville has spent a comparatively modest $79,000 on its lawsuit, which it filed in December.

It has retained Rackemann, Sawyer & Brewster, of Boston, which is charging the city $315 an hour for attorney Gareth Orsmond and between $225 and hour to $340 an hour for other attorneys.

A state judge recently granted the city's request for a temporary stay but Jacklyn Rossetti, a city spokeswoman, says Somerville expects to continue insurring legal costs in the meantime.