EVERETT, Mass. (AP) — Voters in Everett headed to the polls Saturday in the state’s first binding referendum on a casino plan since the expanded gambling law was enacted.
The outcome will determine whether Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn’s proposal to develop a $1.2 billion resort casino on a site along the Mystic River that once housed a chemical plant can move forward and eventually be submitted to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Voters are deciding whether to approve a host community agreement Wynn signed with city officials that called for his company to make $30 million in advance payments to Everett and more than $25 million in annual payments if and when the casino opens for business.
In the agreement, Wynn also promised to mitigate traffic impacts in the city and complete a multimillion-dollar cleanup of pollution at the site.
He also promised to give hiring preference to Everett residents for the estimated 8,000 temporary and permanent jobs that would be created by the project and to make a “good faith effort” to use contractors and suppliers for the city.
Wynn turned his focus to Everett, a city of about 42,000 residents just north of Boston, after an earlier proposal to build a casino in Foxborough ran into opposition from many residents and officials.
In Everett, Mayor Carlo DeMaria and other top city officials have embraced the proposal.
Sandy Guliano, president of the pro-casino group Everett United, said that the host community agreement is “fair and generous” to Everett and that she was encouraged by Wynn’s commitment to clean up the former Monsanto Chemical Co. site.
“It’s highly polluted,” she said. “We don’t know how else this will be cleaned up if it wasn’t for a project like this.”
No organized group formed to oppose the plan, but some residents are wary that a casino will lead to traffic gridlock.
“The traffic is a nightmare already,” said Evmorphia Stratis, who also worries about the potential for increased crime and residents falling victim to gambling addiction.
The 2011 casino law that allows for up to three regional resort casinos in Massachusetts requires that voters approve a host community agreement in a binding referendum before a casino developer can apply for a license from the gaming commission.
Wynn’s plan could be in competition for the sole eastern Massachusetts casino license with proposals from Suffolk Downs and Foxwoods Resorts, which is backing a proposed casino in Milford.
Polls in Everett close at 8 p.m.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.