Voters in the small Massachusetts town of Everett on Saturday overwhelmingly approved a referendum signing off on Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn’s proposal to develop a $1.2 billion resort casino on a site that once housed a chemical plant.
With 6,157 eligible voters casting ballots, 86 percent approved the casino proposal in the state’s first binding referendum on a casino plan since an expanded gambling law was enacted.
“The voters of Everett have spoken clearly and decisively,” Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd., said in a statement. “The vote heightens our enthusiasm and dedication to this fine project. We thank the voters … for their support and making all our efforts so easy.”
Before the project can be built, it needs to be approved by the state’s Gaming Commission.
Wynn Resorts is pursuing one of three gaming licenses to be awarded sometime early next year. The company has proposed building Wynn Everett, a 550-room hotel and resort complex on a 32-acre site that used to house a Monsanto chemical plant.
The agreement Wynn Resorts signed with city officials called for the gaming company to make $30 million in advance payments to Everett and more than $25 million in annual payments if and when the casino opens.
In the agreement, Wynn Resorts also promised to complete a multimillion-dollar cleanup of pollution at the site along the Mystic River. The Las Vegas-based company also promised hiring preference to Everett residents for more than 8,000 construction and permanent jobs.
“This is something that will change Everett,” David Rodrigues, spokesman for Mayor Carlo DeMaria, said in a phone interview. “Back in November when we started discussions with Wynn Resorts, we thought this project would fit here and benefit us.”
Wynn Resorts chose Everett, a city of 42,101 residents just north of Boston, after they pulled out of a deal with The Kraft Group to build a $1 billion casino in Foxborough following the election of two anti-gambling candidates to the Town Hall in December 2011.
The gaming company faces some stiff competition for the only gaming license in Boston from Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston, which has partnered with Caesars Entertainment Corp. A third competitor is Cross Roads Resort in Milford, Mass., which is working with Las Vegas-based Warner Gaming.
No organized group formed to oppose the casino plan. The 2011 casino law that allows for up to three regional resorts required that voters approve a host community agreement in a binding referendum before a company can apply for a license.
Rodrigues declined to comment on the Suffolk Downs or Cross Roads projects.
“We are focused on making this a success,” Rodrigues said. “The Gaming Commission will have to make their assessment later. Tonight, the people of Everett sent a pretty clear message through their vote to approve the agreement.”
Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at email@example.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.