The Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced today that it had found Wynn Resorts, which is proposing a casino in Everett, suitable to hold a gambling license.
The commission said in a statement posted on its website that the decision came after extensive scrutiny of the company.
“As a result of the comprehensive background investigation, a lengthy adjudicatory proceeding and an intensive deliberation conducted by the five-member gaming commission, the Commission finds by a unanimous vote that [Wynn] has met its burden of proof and accordingly is issued a POSITIVE determination of suitability,” the commission said.
The ruling came after a recommendation last week by the commission’s investigators that the company be deemed suitable.
Wynn wants to build a $1.3 billion gambling resort on former industrial land in Everett. The suitability determination is the first of two steps in the process. In the next phase, proposals for the site, facility, and operation of the casino will be evaluated.
The other applicant for the sole Eastern Massachusetts casino license is Mohegan Sun, which has proposed a $1 billion casino on land in Revere belonging to Suffolk Downs. Mohegan Sun has already cleared the license suitability hurdle. But in addition to submitting its plans, it must win support from the voters in a referendum that has been slated for Feb. 25.
The commission expects to award the license in May.
The commission said in today’s Wynn decision that the company had adequately addressed concerns raised by investigators about its business practices at a casino in Macau.
“On the whole, it is clear ... that the Applicant has created a dynamic within its company that promotes strict regulatory compliance,” the commission said. “The Commission is satisfied that the Applicant’s practices in Macau comport with the requirement that it engage in ‘responsible business practices in any jurisdiction [where] it does business.’”
The commission also said questions about whether an undisclosed owner of the Everett site had a criminal background had been addressed by a set of measures proposed by Wynn and approved two weeks earlier by the commission.
The measures included a requirement that the three sellers of the property sign a statement under oath that no one else would receive money from the sale. Another measure called for investigators’ files on the issue to be turned over to local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities.
The commission noted that it “was further made clear that there is no evidence or indication whatsoever that the Applicant was in any way knowledgeable or involved in the issues of concern.”
Commission chairman Stephen Crosby recused himself from the vote on the measures because he had a former business association with one of the three sellers. But he participated in the overall vote ultimately determining that Wynn was suitable.
City officials in Everett, where residents had voted overwhelmingly in June for a casino, said they were pleased with the approval. Michael McLaughlin, the city councilor who represents the ward that includes the possible casino site, called it “a major stepping stone ... I feel as though the next and final decision is going to be the license that will be awarded to Everett and Wynn Resorts sometime in May.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he also believed that the proposal would be very competitive because Wynn’s casinos are known throughout the world and would lure tourists from afar.
“We have a first-class developer who knows who to run and operate casinos,” DeMaria said. “If you ask anyone, they’re going to say, ‘Steve Wynn—he’s done it in Vegas, he’s done it in China, now he’s going to do it here.”
Meanwhile, proponents of the Revere casino said they would work to win their referendum and file their application.
“We’re going to work hard to earn the approval of voters in the same way we are working hard to create an amazing destination and deliver a winning application to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission,” Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority said in a statement.
Richard McGowan, a professor at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, said, “The commission is going to be faced with ‘which is a better site’—Suffolk Downs or Everett,” McGowan said. “That’s going to be very interesting.”
Gaming commission spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said that a license for a Western Massachusetts casino is also expected to be issued in May. The process is lagging in Southeastern Massachusetts, officials said.