The planned spring groundbreaking for Wynn Resorts’ $1.7 billion Everett casino and other activities related to the project are now “effectively on hold,” the casino operator announced on Thursday.
In a press conference, Wynn Everett President Robert DeSalvio said the move was a result of Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone’s appeal that questions the environmental permit that Wynn Everett received from the Department of Environmental Protection early this year.
“All of that, due to this appeal that was put in by the city of Somerville,” DeSalvio said, according to Boston.com. “With these announcements, basically, the construction of the Wynn resort is effectively on hold.”
In addition, a project-related hiring freeze will go into effect. This new setback is expected to not only affect the thousands of construction workers who will build the casino resort, but also the thousands others who are expected to be hired when the complex opens.
For DeSalvio, however, the project was basically a done deal.
“We are not going anywhere,” the Wynn Everett executive told state reporters. “We will get this amazing project done. But for now, unfortunately, due to the delay that’s caused by the appeal, we are actually going to have to go on hold.”
The announcement, which was held with dozens of casino supporters in attendance, was clearly a move to ratchet up the pressure on Curtatone—the final major holdout against the Wynn casino project—but the mayor refused to back down.
In his own press conference, the mayor said “the appeals are a necessary part of the checks and balances,” and that the casino operator “knew the appeal was coming.” Curtatone believed the casino project will seriously affect “the health of city residents as an estimated 18,000 people per day are expected to drive to the casino.”
Somerville’s challenge, filed at the last minute, will go through an appeals process, which could take between six months to a year to be completed and will effectively put Wynn’s license on hold until the issue is decided.
Wynn Resorts had already warned the state that it could lose an estimated $660 million annually if the delay continues. The figure would include some $242 million the casino would pay in annual taxes and fees, as well as the $170 million in payroll and the $248 million for casino operations.
State environmental officials are scheduled to meet in March with lawyers from both camps to see if there is a chance the two parties could settle the matter on their own. If an agreement wasn’t reached, a formal hearing would be held in June. Environmental officials, however, clarified that there will be no special treatment for the casino appeal, noting that they will go through a process “consistent with the practices for handling of any project appeal.”