Wynn Everett will be the only East Massachusetts casino.
Following a lengthy and contentious battle, Wynn Resorts finally secured the sole casino license for the eastern Massachusetts area yesterday, beating out rival Mohegan Sun. The license went to Wynn because the company was willing to invest more into its project and will offer better potential to create jobs and open up new avenues of revenue for the state, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s decision-making process.
The battle for the eastern Massachusetts casino license had it all: multimillions spent in campaign costs, tit-for-tat recriminations, shadowy former landowners suddenly appearing on the scene, and a lawsuit filed against the (former) Chairman of the Gaming Commission, but ultimately it all came down to the week-long deliberations of one panel of four, and it went right to the line.
The panel of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 3-1 in favor of the Wynn Resorts project. Wynn Everett is to be built on a patch of previously contaminated land in Everett, a small city north of Boston.
Over Twice the Construction Costs FTW (for the Wynn)
Last week things hung in the balance for Wynn Resorts when Acting Commission Chairman James McHugh came right out and said that he just hated the look of Wynn Everett. It was “generic” and “lacking energy,” he griped, although he was full of praise for the Mohegan Sun project which he called “attractively styled.”
This, despite the revelation that Wynn’s construction costs were $957 million, dwarfing that of Mohegan Sun, at $376 million.
In fact, the Commission was full of criticism for both projects, and warned that they would have to be extensively modified in order to be accepted. While Wynn Resorts’ financial plan and levels of investment were compared favorably to that of the Mohegan Sun’s, concerns were raised about the company’s failure to find a solution to traffic problems in Sullivan Square, through which 60 percent of the proposed casino’s traffic would be likely to travel.
Things came to a head on Monday, the day before the final decision was made, when the Commission announced it wanted Wynn to pay 10 percent of the costs towards a $100 million-plus reconstruction of Sullivan Square that would alleviate congestion. It also wanted the company to pay fines of $20,000 per vehicle that exceeded certain congestion targets.
Deal-breaker Wynns It
Wynn agreed to the reconstruction fees, balked at the fines, went away, slept on it, came back, and agreed to cover $20 million toward penalties on traffic above set targets in Sullivan Square, if it won the license.
This, it seems, was the deal-breaker.
While McHugh was still hating the aesthetics, and voted for the Mohegan Sun, his three colleagues went with Wynn. The Commission felt that the project has the capacity to become a real destination for travelers from around the world and stand out in a saturated gaming market. Money talks, and Wynn’s $1.6 billion resort, if it goes ahead, is set to be the biggest private development in the state’s history.
That’s still a slight “if,” though. Massachusetts has a growing anti-casino movement that has already won the right to vote to repeal the state’s 2011 expanded gaming law. Voters will decide whether to do so in November, although sentiments towards repeal have weakened of late.