Everett, Mass., makes case for casino plan
Everett, Mass. - If a city could ever "need" a casino, that city might be Everett.
And Wynn Resorts' plan to develop a $1.6 billion resort on a contaminated site along the Mystic River would provide just the salvation Everett requires, local proponents of the project told state gaming regulators Wednesday during a more than four-hour hearing.
It was the second such session held in two days by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which is nearing a decision on the Greater Boston casino license it is expected to award by early September at the latest. On Tuesday, the panel heard testimony on Mohegan Sun's plan to build a $1.3 billion project in Revere, which borders Everett.
Not surprisingly, no one from Everett uttered a discouraging word. After all, a whopping 87 percent of the city's electorate had endorsed the Wynn Resorts project in a June 2013 referendum.
"We're the 87 percent," said a speaker, one of many who wore blue T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, "Wynn for Massachusetts."
Though Steve Wynn, the highly recognizable Wynn Resorts chairman, was conspicuous by his absence, his top lieutenants, one of them a former Foxwoods Resort Casino executive hired in March to lead the Everett project, took dead aim at Mohegan Sun, as Wynn had done at a January hearing in Boston.
Robert DeSalvio, a Wynn senior vice president who spent nearly 10 years at Foxwoods before joining Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., told the commission he would "correct some things you heard last night" during Mohegan Sun's presentation in Revere.
DeSalvio said Wynn officials were way ahead of their competition in filing a final environmental impact report with the state, and contradicted Mohegan Sun's claim that Wynn had sought waivers from certain gaming commission regulations.
Any reference to the Everett project's design as "cookie-cutter" couldn't be further from the truth, DeSalvio said, referring to Mohegan Sun executives' critique of the Wynn architecture.
DeSalvio said that if Wynn wins the casino license and Suffolk Downs, the thoroughbred track located next to Mohegan Sun's Revere site, ever shuts down, Wynn will give hiring preference to Suffolk Downs employees who lose their jobs and support them with job training. Suffolk Downs has said it will likely close if the Mohegan Sun project fails to materialize.
Matt Maddox, Wynn Resorts' president, touted his company's financial strength and the global reach of its brand, two areas in which he said it outstrips Mohegan Sun. Wynn's Las Vegas casino generates 65 percent of its gaming revenue from international customers, Maddox said.
"Boston's an international city," he told the commission. "You deserve the best."
According to a fact sheet Wynn Resorts distributed at the hearing, the Everett project would create more than 5,000 "long-term" jobs, 30 percent more than Mohegan Sun's Revere project would provide. And, the sheet said, the Everett project would be 100 percent owned by Wynn, "not by an institutional hedge fund or other third parties," a reference to Mohegan Sun's financial backer for the Revere project, Brigade Capital Management.
Speaker after speaker described Everett's dire need of the economic boost the Wynn project could provide, starting with Mayor Carlo DeMaria. "We're the city that time has forgotten," DeMaria told the commission.
The Wynn proposal offers Everett its only hope for remediating land left contaminated by the Monsanto Chemical Co., Thomas Stella, the city's assistant schools superintendent, said.
Among those who spoke in favor of the Wynn project were two unionized employees who work at Wynn's Las Vegas casino.
When dissent was heard, it came from residents of Everett's neighboring communities, such as Somerville and Boston's Charlestown neighborhood, who voiced concerns about the casino project's impact on traffic, or union representatives critical of Wynn's refusal to discuss "labor harmony" agreements.
"Connecticut already has a Mohegan Sun. We don't need another one," James Sachetta, an 87-year-old Everett resident, said.
Speakers made only fleeting reference to a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling the previous day that cast the state's casino-licensing process in a new light. The court ruled that November's Election Day ballots can contain a referendum question on whether the state's 2011 expanded-gambling law should be repealed. The law authorized up to three casinos and one slots parlor.
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