Wynn Everett was awarded its gambling license in September of 2014, yet the $1.7 billion casino resort just across the Mystic River north of Boston still hasn’t broken ground.
But it’s certainly one giant step closer this week to moving dirt, after the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) signed off on the developer’s plans.
In a memo obtained by the Boston Globe, J. Lionel Lucien, MassDOT public-private development unit manager said, “We believe that no further environmental review need be required based on transportation issues.”
The endorsement is a critical development towards Wynn potentially receiving its environmental permit from Matthew Beaton, secretary of the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Appointed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, perhaps the most powerful advocate for the building of the Boston casino, Beaton isn’t expected to delay issuing the permit now that the transportation authority has signed off.
Unplanned Traffic Routes
Many in the city of Boston, including Mayor Martin Walsh, a Democrat, are adamantly opposed to the construction of the Wynn Everett. They believe the resort will reek transportation havoc on Sullivan Square, its Orange Line subway, Rutherford Avenue, and exit ramps along Interstate 93.
City magistrates also say the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) rushed through the selling of 1.75 acres of land to Wynn for $6 million without proper approvals. Last but not least, Maura Healey, attorney general for the state, is demanding a traffic plan be submitted before construction begins, not after.
“If you approve the casino without a long-term traffic mitigation plan, we may never get one,” Healey wrote in a letter to Beaton. “This dangerous and congested set of roadways may be unfamiliar to many state residents, but it serves as a major regional transit hub and access point.”
But Lucien and MassDOT seem to believe all three issues have been settled, or at least that they’re capable of being resolved during the construction process.
“MassDOT shares some of the City of Boston’s concerns regarding the effectiveness of the interim mitigation plan,” Lucien wrote. “MassDOT will continue to work with Wynn.”
Lawyered Up, and Paying Sky-High Fees
While the building of the Wynn Everett will unquestionably encounter many hurdles as it relates to transportation, the main issue preventing the casino from being built might just be political in nature. And politics almost always boils down to money.
For his part, Wynn has agreed to contribute $7.5 million over 15 years to the Orange Line and place the 1.75 acres of MBTA land he purchased into escrow until Beaton’s review is complete.
Meanwhile, Boston says it doesn’t want to be host to a casino, but claims it’s exactly that for Steve Wynn’s Everett site with through roads and public transportation routes that are owned by the city. Walsh has hired former Assistant US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Thomas Frongillo to make his case. And that legal contract has come under fire in and of itself for its high fee structure.
Frongillo is being paid $490 an hour, an unusually high rate for government-contracted lawyers, and has collected $1.3 million in taxpayer monies to date. Walsh claimed Frongillo had “extensive experience in gaming law,” which later proved to be untrue. Also uncovered was that the attorney had donated $3,000 to the mayor’s campaign and performed pro bono work for lawmakers while Walsh was in the state legislature.
With all these internal battles still waging on, exactly when Wynn Everett will see its foundation assembled remains anyone’s guess.