The battle for a Boston-area casino has been embroiled for months now, between regulatory nitpicking, changes in locale based on voting referendums, and some departures by major players who got sick of dealing with what they perceived as ridiculous bars for business dealings. In fact, you could call it “The Brash and the Dutiful.”
Wynn Speaks Out
In our latest episode of this soap opera last week, it was iconic casino impresario Steve Wynn vs. the Mohegan Sun, and Wynn wasn’t mincing words as he addressed the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, either. Only his Everett, Mass. casino project or Mohegan Sun’s with partner Suffolk Downs in Revere can hold the single coveted operating license, and Wynn isn’t famous for being coy.
“I’m being hard-nosed today because today is not about theater, today is about how we get a destination resort up and running in Massachusetts,” said Wynn, who went on to make fun of the Mohegan Sun proposal, referring to it as a three-star resort versus what he promised would be a five-star casino should Wynn Resorts, Ltd. capture the sole license.
Both Wynn and Mohegan Sun’s CEO Mitchell Etess made presentations to the commission, but their styles differed greatly. But both assured the commissioners that their project would do the most to build employment, forward tax revenue to the state, and draw a strong global tourism market to Massachusetts.
“We have the ‘wow’ that this market wants and what Massachusetts deserves,” said Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, during a 90-minute presentation that included charts, videos and architectural models.
Steve Wynn took a different approach, doing his presentation in less that 60 minutes, and offering it up largely unscripted and minus many visuals; but then again, he’s Steve Wynn. Same reason Sinatra didn’t need any stage sets, you know?
He declared that his Wynn Everett hotel rooms would be double the size of Mohegan Sun’s, and infinitely more luxe. Then he added that his project’s 19-story hotel towers simply made more sense than his competitor’s more horizontal architectural plan, saying the vertical design worked better for hotel guests and delivery of things like room service that keep guests happy.
Mohegan Sun Must Pass Revere Referendum Vote
Mohegan Sun must still pass a February 25th referendum vote before it can even be officially considered for its casino project in Revere on land owned by Suffolk Downs, while Steve Wynn’s Everett project on the Mystic River will go up on the site of an old Monsanto plant if it’s approved. Both sites lie on the outskirts of Boston.
Interestingly, a Mohegan Sun spokesman didn’t deny Wynn’s claims that their hotel would be a three-star property, but explained that that property would be the smaller of two hotels, with a larger one going for a four-star designation.
“We have old-fashioned New England know-how and New England values,” Etess said of the Mohegan project; maybe not a really selling point for a casino project.
Mohegan Sun joined up with partner Suffolk Downs after Caesars bowed out, and an East Boston locale referendum was shot down in November. Acknowledging that it’s been a “whirlwind” for his outfit, Etess said his company’s roots in Connecticut and Pennsylvania meant they had a strong following of East Coast players to pull from.
Additionally, Etess pointed out that a Revere location offered easy access from several freeways, as well as public transport and access from Logan International Airport, which is close by. He also made a snipe at Wynn Everett’s former chemical plant site, calling the Mohegan Sun site “clean,” and promised to be open six months earlier than Wynn Everett, as well as bringing in more tax monies for the state.
Wynn shot back, saying the Monsanto site would be completely overhauled of any possible toxins, and added that his casino would be the “worst nightmare” for the two major Connecticut operators – Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.
“If Wynn Resorts is selected, we have only one interest, this casino in Massachusetts,”said Wynn. “We don’t give a damn about Connecticut.”
Both sides had plenty of supporters; Suffolk Downs employees offered up thunderous applause when Mohegan Sun promised to maintain horse racing at the Downs track, which would be a separate unit from the casino itself.
MGM Resorts International made their presentation to the commission later in the week for their proposed Springfield casino project; they are the only company in the running for the western Massachusetts license.
The Gaming Commission is expected to make their final licensing decisions on May 30.