EVERETT — Most residents did not have to look at the rendering of gleaming glass towers that Steve Wynn wants to build as part of a casino complex along the Mystic River.
“This is about jobs and lower taxes,” said Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr.
Everett is one of three sites vying for the single Greater Boston casino license that will be awarded next year by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Caesars Entertainment and Suffolk Downs have proposed a casino at the East Boston and Revere site, and Foxwoods Resort Casino and a Colorado developer have applied to build a casino in Milford.
No one in Everett is ready to call the city the area’s new Las Vegas, but unlike Boston, where a recent Globe poll revealed significant residential opposition to a casino proposal for Suffolk Downs, there has been little resistance to Wynn’s Everett plan, which calls for up to $1.5 billion to be spent on a 19-story hotel with 550 guest suites.
At least 4,000 permanent jobs would be created — with Everett residents getting first priority — and DeMaria envisions the development would pay at least $20 million a year in new taxes. DeMaria said the city should complete its host agreement, a process required under the state’s gaming law, in the next two weeks, and plans to hold a citywide referendum, also required by the state, on the Wynn proposal in June.
Community leaders, including DeMaria and City Councilor Jason Marcus, said the city has always taken pride in its hard-working residents and its commercial industry, which has helped to keep property taxes low.
“The number one issue here has been taxes since I’ve been in politics. People like that — it created pride in Everett — low taxes,” said Marcus, who has served as a city councilor and alderman for 28 years.
During the last century, the city ceded its waterfront property to chemical plants, oil refineries, and coal-fired power plants. If the casino is built, it will stand in the shadow of liquefied natural gas tanks, smokestacks, electric power grids, and a 346-foot-high MBTA wind turbine.
“Everett residents respect the dollar, and they do like paying lower taxes,” said DeMaria, who said the proposed 4,000 jobs would pay an average of $50,000 a year and be union positions. Numbers like that could help reduce Everett’s current 6.8 percent unemployment rate. A casino could also help boost the median household income, which, according to US Census Bureau figures, was $48,319, in 2010 for the city of 41,667.
Residents said a casino would not conflict with family values. Here, operators offer three buses a day from the city to Foxwoods in Ledyard, Conn. According to the Massachusetts State Lottery, people in Everett spent more than $41 million on the lottery in 2012, 23d in revenues among cities and towns that sell lottery tickets.
In downtown Everett, Evmorphia Stratis, a native of the city, realized she is one of the few voices against a proposal that could bring the city millions each year in new taxes. Stratis believes a casino would lower real estate property values and bring more crime, prostitution, and drugs to the city. She also said it would hurt the people who could least afford to lose money.
“The Everett city government is acting like this will be a great boon,” she said. “Gambling is based on taking money from people.”
On Broadway, though, and in the boroughs of the city — called the Line and the Village — residents dismissed most concerns casino opponents have voiced. They say an investment of more than $1 billion by Wynn comes along once in a lifetime. No major projects have been built here since 2007, when the city’s $80 million high school opened, following the $60 million Gateway Mall in 2002.
“I think it’s a wonderful idea for Everett,” said Lee McCoy, who owns a house in the city. “Hopefully if the equation works out right, it will lower my property tax, it’ll give jobs to the city, and bring commerce.”
Marcus said a casino would help reshape the city as “a world-class destination,” and allow the city to rebuild its infrastructure.
Ken Magno, who owns a sub shop near the Malden line, said the city cannot afford to turn down Wynn’s offer.
“We’d rather be the city that has it than the city that doesn’t have it, because if it doesn’t go here, it’ll go someplace else. And I think Everett should reap the benefits of that,” he said.
Sandy Juliano, seated in her real estate office that overlooks downtown Everett, also talked about jobs. Juliano is one of the volunteers for Everett United, a pro-casino group that has formed to promote the project before the referendum vote. Juliano thumbed through a glossy Wynn catalog she has been handing out, and said there is little downside to a gambling hall being built down the road.Continued...