Massachusetts gambling regulators on Thursday lost their bid to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Boston challenging the award of the state's most lucrative casino license to Wynn Resorts.
In a lengthy hearing covering three lawsuits related to the Wynn project, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders denied the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's request to dismiss Boston's lawsuit outright. The commission had argued that the city's 153-page lawsuit was "effectively unanswerable" because it was so verbose.
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The judge, addressing a range of other issues Thursday, also rejected Boston's efforts to begin taking testimony from witnesses in the highly charged case.
Sanders said she'll hold a Sept. 22 hearing to consider the state's other arguments for throwing out the lawsuit. Among those arguments is that the casino licensing competition and award process is not subject to judicial review.
Thomas Frongillo, a private attorney representing Boston, said the case raises serious questions about the integrity of the state's gambling regulatory process. "This is a significant case for the public," he said, arguing that Boston's lengthy complaint was warranted because the alleged misconduct pervaded virtually every aspect of the multiyear licensing process.
Boston and two other cities — Revere and Somerville — have filed separate lawsuits against the commission. The cities say commission members bent rules time and again to favor Wynn's project over one by Mohegan Sun for the Suffolk Downs horse racing track in Revere. Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs workers also are plaintiffs in Revere's lawsuit.
Among Boston's many allegations are that commission members changed application rules and regulations to benefit Wynn and that Wynn representatives knew criminally suspect figures had an ownership stake in the former chemical plant site they hope to develop.
Boston recently issued 17 subpoenas to current and former state officials and others tied to the project. It alleges that former state troopers working as private investigators for Wynn may have known about the criminal ties to the property, a revelation the city says should lead Wynn to lose its license, if proven true.
Wynn, which is not a party in any of the three lawsuits, has threatened to sue Boston for defamation.
Revere also has asked the court to start the discovery process in its case. But Judge Sanders on Thursday ruled that such evidence gathering is premature.
"There are serious issues that need to be address here first," she said.
Sanders, meanwhile, granted Somerville its request to continue its lawsuit against the gaming commission, pending the state's review of the traffic and environmental mitigation plans for Wynn's $1.7 billion resort casino complex for the industrial Everett waterfront across from Boston.
The three lawsuits are among a number of hurdles facing the state's marquee casino project.
A group of Massachusetts taxpayers also have filed suit challenging Wynn's casino project. That complaint is against Wynn and the state transit authority, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and focuses on a controversial land deal between the two.
Wynn is one of three licensed casino operators in Massachusetts. MGM is building an $800 million resort in Springfield, and Penn National Gaming operates Plainridge Park, a recently opened slots parlor in Plainville.