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Massachusetts Cities in Court Over Wynn Casino License

Backers of the planned Wynn Resorts casino in Everett, Mass., faced a long day in court Tuesday that could determine whether the project is mired in months or years of ligitation -- or gets into construction next spring and opens, as Wynn hopes, by late 2018.

Judge Janet L. Sanders of Suffolk Superior Court heard arguments in four of five lawsuits seeking to invalidate the state Gaming Commission's approval of Wynn to receive the sole eastern Massachusetts casino license. Mayors of Boston, Revere, and Somerville and owners of Mohegan Sun, whose Suffolk Downs bid for the license was defeated by Wynn, want the casino license rebid entirely, contending the commission's process was shot through with rule bending and law breaking. Four people associated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 have sued on the grounds they contend the Gaming Commission violated the state Open Meeting Law in approving the Wynn casino.

"I do understand the importance of getting a judgment promptly, and I will make my best attempt to do it," said Sanders from the bench. She has been wading through a blizzard of court filings over the summer and now faces new arguments and rebuttals made during the 2 1/2 hour proceeding Tuesday. She did not indicate how soon she could rule on which of the suits have "standing" to move ahead. If she throws out several of the lawsuits, it eliminates a big source of uncertainty for Wynn and potentially staves off significant delays for the planned casino on the banks of the Mystic River at the Everett-Charlestown line.

Mohegan attorney Ken Leonetti of the Boston firm Foley Hoag & Eliot argued to Sanders that Mohegan invested millions in a licensing process that failed to comply with the state casino law in several ways. "Here we suffered a substantial injustice as well by participating in a process that we allege was tainted, in which the statutory requirements were not followed, and that's the key," Leonetti said.

Gaming Commission lawyer David Mackey of Anderson & Kreiger -- a former Massachusetts Port Authority acting CEO who has been appointed a special assistant state attorney general to defend the Gaming Commission -- said the plain language of the Massachusetts casino law makes clear: If you lose the license bid, you don't get to sue: "Applicants shall have no legal right or privilege to a gaming license, and shall not be entitled to any further review if denied by the commission."

But Revere lawyer James Cipoletta asked: How, in America, can a public decision this big escape any legal challenge? "The gaming commission is saying, you can't review our decision at all,'' Cipoletta said. "Their decisions are just not subject to scrutiny by a court of law or by another branch of government."

The Somerville lawsuit is being held on another track while Sanders moves ahead with deciding whether the Boston, Revere, Mohegan, and IBEW cases can move ahead.

With videographer Michael Bennett

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