Published December 10. 2013 2:00PM Updated December 11. 2013 7:12PM
Mohegan Sun’s quest of a foothold in Massachusetts will involve another referendum.
The five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission, faced with circumstances it never foresaw, unanimously approved a process Tuesday that will enable Mohegan Sun to file plans for a $1 billion resort casino in Revere and await the outcome of a second referendum in the city, probably in February.
In a Nov. 5 referendum, Revere voters overwhelmingly approved a Suffolk Downs casino proposal that straddled the East Boston-Revere line. At the same time, however, East Boston voters rejected the plan, seemingly killing it. Or so some thought.
Since then, Mohegan Sun, in partnership with Suffolk Downs, has begun planning a casino that would be located entirely in Revere, on Suffolk Downs-owned land.
It has been unclear whether Massachusetts’ expanded-gambling law required another referendum on the Revere-only plan.
Commissioner James McHugh offered a solution that sidesteps an interpretation, proposing that Mohegan Sun and Revere officials request a waiver from a commission requirement that certification of a referendum vote be attached to an applicant’s final plan. McHugh suggested Mohegan Sun could file its plan by a Dec. 31 deadline and negotiate a “host community agreement” with Revere officials before a referendum takes place.
Mitchell Etess, chief executive officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said Mohegan Sun welcomed the commission’s action.
“We’re really excited about it,” he said. “Now we’ve got a clear path to move forward with the city of Revere. This is a city that has voted for this casino, and we know we can create a great opportunity. We feel very positive and energized.”
Etess said Mohegan Sun would move “very quickly” to seek the waiver McHugh suggested and that the referendum could be held 60 days thereafter, perhaps as soon as mid-February.
A Mohegan Sun proposal for Revere would be expected to compete for the one Greater Boston license the commission is scheduled to award next year. At this point, the only other competitor is Wynn Resorts, which has proposed a casino in Everett. The commission has yet to deem Wynn a “suitable” applicant for a casino license.
Mohegan Sun was derailed last month by a referendum in Palmer, a western Massachusetts town where it first proposed a Bay State casino. Voters there defeated Mohegan Sun’s $1 billion project by a mere 94 votes.