Wynn formalizes Boston casino license; Suffolk Downs announces closing date

TAGs: boston, martin walsh, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Gaming Commission, repeal the casino deal, Suffolk Downs, Wynn Resorts

wynn-resorts-suffolk-downsCasino operator Wynn Resorts has officially signed the Boston-area casino license it was awarded on Tuesday by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). On Wednesday, Wynn senior VP Robert DeSalvio signed the agreement allowing it to build a $1.6b casino in Everett, just north of Boston. Wynn’s win came at the expense of rival bidder Mohegan Sun, which had proposed a $1.1b casino on land adjoining the struggling Suffolk Downs racetrack in Revere.

Wynn’s agreement requires the firm to give first priority when hiring casino staff to workers at Suffolk Downs, which had been counting on the casino to keep its doors open. On Wednesday, track execs confirmed that Sept. 29 would be the last day of racing at Suffolk Downs, although simulcasting of other races will continue until the track officially shuts its doors in December. Suffolk Downs COO Chip Tuttle didn’t attempt to hide his frustration, saying other major tracks on the east coast had been allowed the benefit of “expanded gaming” but the MGC had “chosen a different way.”

DeSalvio said Wynn hadn’t yet decided whether to join MGM Resorts and Penn National Gaming in urging state voters to preserve the state’s casino laws via a November ballot initiative. MGM and Penn, the two other operators to have been awarded Massachusetts gaming licenses, have contributed $1.75m toward a lobbying campaign intended to convince voters to reject efforts to repeal the state’s 2011 casino legislation. DeSalvio said Wynn had no immediate plans to join the fight but wouldn’t rule out future participation.

The anti-casino group Repeal the Casino Deal announced on Wednesday that it has managed to lure the pro-casino side into a series of public debates in the lead-up to the November vote. At least one of the debates looks like it will be televised. Repeal chairman John Ribeiro issued a statement saying voters deserved “more than soundbites, platitudes and million dollar ad buys.” Justine Griffin, who reps the pro-casino Coalition to Protect Mass. Jobs, told The Republican that her side was “committed to participating in a vigorous debate.”

All the vigor seems to have gone out of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who had publicly disparaged Wynn over what Walsh felt was Wynn’s unwillingness to adequately compensate the city for traffic snarl-ups and other inconveniences the Everett casino is expected to bring. Walsh had clearly favored the Mohegan Sun proposal but now seems resigned to the fact that he’d gambled and lost. WGBH Boston quoted Walsh saying the MGC had “made its decision, so I’m going to leave it there.”

Walsh now insists that he never bore Wynn chairman Steve Wynn any personal animosity, noting that he’d “never met the man … Obviously everyone knows the history of what happened. Now there’s an opportunity here to take this and start fresh.” For Wynn’s part, DeSalvio chose to take the high road, saying the company had “always been ready, willing and able [to talk] … We believe the mayor’s team is as well.” Well, sure… now.


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