Wynn Resorts wins Boston gambling license

BOSTON — Wynn Resorts has won the competition for the lucrative Boston-area casino license, besting rival Mohegan Sun largely on the strength of its $1.6 billion project’s economic development potential.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 3-to-1 Tuesday to award the license to the Las Vegas casino giant, which wants to turn a former chemical plant site on the Mystic River in Everett into a gleaming casino resort.

A final vote is expected Wednesday after Wynn formally agrees to terms and conditions regulators have stipulated.

The license is the third the commission has issued. By law, it can authorize licenses for three regional resort casinos and one slot parlor.

Wynn Resorts Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn said in a statement he hopes the decision will help ease tense relations between the casino, Boston and some neighboring cities.

“We expect that now that a decision has been made, everybody will find it much easier to relate to one another, 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,” he said.

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria said the resort, which Wynn touts as the largest private development project in state history, represents an enormous boost to his economically struggling city.

“It’s going to be a snowball that just gets bigger and bigger,” he said. “You won’t recognize the city of Everett hopefully in ten years. We’ll no longer be the butt-end of Boston.”

Mohegan Sun, which had proposed a $1.1 billion casino at the Suffolk Downs horse racing track in Revere, said it was “extremely disappointed” and still believes its proposal “met or exceeded” all the commission’s conditions.

Regulators rated the tribe-owned casino’s plan lower because it appeared more focused on drawing revenue from Boston-area residents and not encroaching on its flagship Connecticut casino’s customer base.

Without the Mohegan Sun project, Suffolk Downs, the state’s lone remaining thoroughbred horse racing track, said it would likely be forced to close, “resulting in unemployment and uncertainty for many hard-working people.”

Meanwhile, anti-casino activists called Wynn’s proposal “incredibly flawed” and “wrapped in controversy.” They urged voters to approve November’s ballot question to repeal the state’s casino law and effectively prevent projects like Wynn’s resort from opening altogether.

Tuesday’s decision caps months of public scrutiny over the two high-profile plans.

Wynn, notably, faced allegations that convicted criminals would profit from its deal to purchase the Everett land, in violation of state gambling regulations. But the commission’s investigative staff determined the company had sufficiently addressed those concerns.

Wynn also feuded publicly with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration.

In a statement, the mayor said his administration is evaluating the panel’s decision. He said Wynn’s current financial compensation offer to Boston, which it raised to more than $75 million on Tuesday, remains unacceptable.

Wynn conceded to a number of demands from regulators during the final proceedings, including an agreement to propose alternate designs for its 27-story glass hotel tower. The company also agreed to pay more toward long-term plans to address traffic through Sullivan Square in nearby Boston.

The commissioners ultimately were convinced Wynn’s plan better fit what state lawmakers had envisioned when they passed legislation in 2011 allowing for casinos. Commissioners noted that Wynn promised to pay workers better wages and proposed spending millions of dollars more in construction costs than Mohegan Sun.

Acting Gaming Commission Chairman James McHugh, the lone voice of dissent, expressed doubts that the Wynn project could actually open on time, given the challenges in addressing Boston’s traffic concerns and the environmental cleanup on the roughly 30-acre site.

Previously, the commission awarded licenses to MGM Resorts International for an $800 million resort in Springfield, pending the November repeal vote; and to Penn National Gaming for its $225 million slots parlor project at the Plainridge harness racing track in Plainville.

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