“David Nunes — that’s interesting,” said Richard McGowan, a Boston College professor and casino expert. “From the state’s point-of-view, [Milford] might be a place that could use some economic development more than the other two.”
Four other developers are vying for the western Massachusetts casino license, while two others are vying for the state’s sole slot parlor license. Bidding for the third casino license, in southeastern Massachusetts, has been placed on hold to give the Mashpee Wampanoag time to pursue a tribal casino in Taunton under federal law.
In search of every possible edge, the developers in Greater Boston are playing up their claims of local roots.
Nunes, who lives now near Aspen, Colo., is originally from Bolton and graduated in 1978 from Nashoba High School. The developer says he has been trying to build a casino in Massachusetts since at least 1996, when he was working with the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah. He has pursued a Milford casino since 2008, three years before the state finally legalized Las Vegas-style gambling after many false starts.
Though Fields is from New York, Suffolk Downs is a Massachusetts icon. Super-horses Seabiscuit and Cigar raced there. A super band, The Beatles, played there. Prominent Boston businessman Joseph O’Donnell is the second-largest stakeholder in the track. And details of the Suffolk Downs casino proposal, presented publicly last June, came from innumerable meetings during six years with neighbors in East Boston and Revere, said Fields, who managed to jab Wynn without mentioning him.
“You can’t just parachute into Massachusetts,” he said.
Wynn’s Everett proposal seemed to come from nowhere in November, when news that he was coming to tour the site broke two days before the visit. But Wynn promotes his return to Greater Boston as a homecoming, of sorts.
“My whole family is from Revere,” Wynn said in a Globe interview. His parents met there, and Steve Wynn would have been born in Revere if not for his father’s heart problems, which left him ineligible for the military draft. Instead, Michael Wynn took a defense job at a Connecticut weapons-maker during World War II. Steve Wynn was born in New Haven in 1942. He is nostalgic about summers at his aunt’s house near Revere Beach.
“I think back to when I was a kid playing stickball on Dana Street with a broom and a tennis ball,” he said.
In addition to local connections, the developers have at least one other thing in common: None are serious gamblers.
“I might have played a slot machine one time,” said Nunes, who is fighting two casino giants. “As you can see, I’m a different type of gambler.”
Fields, whose development portfolio includes successful Hard Rock casinos in Florida, said he has “never gambled.”
“It’s so funny—I just don’t do that,” said Fields. “It’s not for any reason other than it’s not in my psyche. I go to Vegas or any of these places and I’ll go through the projects and find them really interesting and exciting. But I’m a developer and sort of an entertainment guy, and I’ll look at this from the standpoint of how do you make sure people have a good time? But it never occurs to me to gamble. Isn’t that interesting?”
Wynn said in an interview last spring that he shoots dice with a buddy every few years, but generally did not gamble. He said last week that he recently made the first sports bets of his life, laying 9 points last weekend on the favored New England Patriots, the NFL team owned by Wynn’s friend, Robert Kraft. Wynn a year ago proposed a casino on land Kraft owned in Foxborough, but gave up because of local opposition. He had better luck with the wager, at a competitor’s sports book, when the Patriots beat Houston, 41-28.
How much did he bet? “I can’t tell you,” said Wynn. “I’m embarrassed. It will make me look wild and crazy.”