BOSTON (CBS/AP) – The Massachusetts state gaming commission formally voted Tuesday to award the eastern Massachusetts casino license to Wynn Resorts for its plan in Everett.
Three of the four state commissioners said they’d prefer to give the Boston-area license to Wynn over competitor Mohegan Sun, which planned a casino at the Suffolk Downs horse racing track in Revere.
The commissioners completed their review of conditions for the operator in a hearing Tuesday morning. Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said he believed Wynn would fare better in a competitive market, and other commissioners agreed that Wynn would create more jobs.
Acting Commission Chairman James McHugh was the only panelist to express a preference for Mohegan Sun, saying that he had environmental and traffic concerns about Wynn’s proposal.
In a statement, Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts said, “we’ll do our best to ensure that Judge McHugh’s worst fears are not realized.”
JOBS AND PAYROLL
A major factor in Tuesday’s decision was jobs.
“We expect that now that a decision has been made, everybody will find it much easier to relate to one another,” Wynn said, “get on with the job of creating jobs and building a better life for the citizens of Everett and the surrounding communities in the Greater Boston area.”
Wynn estimated 4,382 jobs with a $170 million payroll in its proposal, while Mohegan Sun had 4,305 employees with a $142 million payroll.
“We are extraordinarily disappointed as this action is likely to cost the Commonwealth thousands of jobs, small business and family farms,” Suffolk Downs Chief Operating Officer Chip Tuttle said in a statement.
“We will be meeting with employees and horsemen over the next several days to talk about how we wind down racing operations as a 79-year legacy of Thoroughbred racing in Massachusetts will be coming to an end, resulting in unemployment and uncertainty for many hard-working people.”
Mitchell Etess, CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, issued a statement saying they are “extremely disappointed in today’s decision.”
Voters will still decide in November whether to repeal the state’s casino law, which would halt the licensing process before any casino can open in the state.
Reaction in Everett was mixed on Tuesday. While some are thrilled at the prospect of new jobs, others are concerned about the traffic that is likely to increase because of the casino.
The state’s gaming commission had barely finished voting and casino supporters were out on Everett Square. “He’s going to revitalize Everett, he’s going to put in waterways,” resident Louise Losanno said of Wynn’s plan. “He’s going to clean up the Mystic River. What more can you want?”
Wynn’s proposal won over state officials with its promise of more workers earning more money than rival Mohegan Sun; an optimistic outlook, as other casinos in the northeast fails.
Everett City Councilor Michael McLaughlin says recent casino failures in Atlantic City do not worry him. “I think that Atlantic City is a lot different than the city of Everett,” McLaughlin said. “Atlantic City was just sort of in the middle of nowhere basically and it was kind of built around a casino. We are a city that is established.”
Anti-casino forces are looking towards November’s election where voters might kill the plan.
“Casinos leave a trail of broken promises across the country,” said John Ribeiro, chair of Repeal the Casino Deal. “Full steam ahead we are working to repeal the entire law to make sure no one has to deal with casinos anywhere in Massachusetts.”
Wynn Resorts plans to turn a roughly 30-acre former chemical plant site along the Mystic River in Everett into the sort of five-star luxury resort that has become the Las Vegas-based company’s hallmark.
The proposal calls for a 365-foot glasslike hotel tower offering about 500 rooms. The casino floor would house 3,242 slot machines and 168 table games.
Wynn’s plan envisions $1.6 billion in spending. About $1 billion of that would be construction costs for a site that would consist of 77,250 square feet of retail space, 64,593 square feet of food and beverage options, 32,942 square feet of meeting and convention space, and a 30,392-square-foot nightclub.
Mohegan Sun’s two lodging options — a three-star boutique hotel and a four-star casino hotel — would have offered up to 550 rooms total. The casino floor would house 4,200 slot machines and 120 table games.
The proposal also called for 102,000 square feet of retail space, 92,000 square feet of food and beverage options, and 44,800 square feet of meeting and convention space.
The city of Boston has yet to negotiate a surrounding community agreement with Wynn.
ONE LICENSE LEFT
The gambling commission is charged with licensing up to three Las Vegas-style casinos and one slot parlor for the entire state.
It has already given the slot parlor license to Penn National Gaming for its $225 million expansion of the harness racing track in Plainville, a project that is underway.
The commission also granted a resort casino license to MGM Resorts International for its $800 million project in downtown Springfield, pending the outcome of the election.
No license has been awarded yet for southeastern Massachusetts.
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