The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has voted to approve awarding the Greater Boston area’s lone casino license to the Wynn Resorts proposal in Everett.
The commission voted 3-1 in favor of the $1.6 billion resort proposal. Wynn’s proposal beat out a competing bid from Mohegan Sun, which would have built at Suffolk Downs in Revere.
The gaming board has been holding discussions over the course of the last eight days to determine which party would receive the license. Wynn had been back and forth with the commission over the past few days, working on conditions for receiving the license that focused extensively on its efforts to mitigate traffic in Sullivan Square in Charlestown.
Ahead of the vote Tuesday, Wynn unveiled a plan that would see it take on a maximum of $20 million over 10 years in penalties for excess traffic at Sullivan Square—a proposal that appeased most board members’ concerns. Wynn also made clear that it would reconsider the exterior design of its site, after the design took on some criticism from the board.
Commissioners Gayle Cameron, Bruce Stebbins and Enrique Zuniga voted for the Wynn plan. Commissioner James McHugh was the only board member to favor Mohegan Sun.
The commissioners in support of Wynn said Tuesday they felt more comfortable with Wynn’s financial footing, job creation prospects, and long-term stability.
McHugh said he agreed Wynn held a “slight edge in potential yield.’’ But he said he favored the Mohegan Sun proposal because of concerns about Wynn’s ability to get development underway on schedule, due to open-ended elements of its plan—like how it will handle traffic at Sullivan Square (which came up time and again over the past week), and its less-than-friendly relationships with nearby communities.
Following the vote, McHugh said he hoped all parties would work together to move the Wynn project forward, according to The Boston Globe.
Suffolk Downs, which lobbied hard for expanded gambling in the state, said following the decision that it would likely have to close its race track. The Mohegan Sun proposal was expected to keep the track operating. About 1,100 people work at the track.
A number of obstacles will await Wynn moving forward.
Not least of them: A voter referendum on Election Day will ask whether to overturn the state’s 2011 casino law, and could render Wynn’s plans worthless. That threat would have also awaited Mohegan Sun, and is a also a challenge to fellow casino developers MGM, which is building a resort in Springfield, and Penn National, building a slots parlor in Plainville.
The Coalition to Protect Mass. Jobs, which is fighting the repeal effort, seemed pleased to welcome a new ally to its cause.
Wynn also faces a contentious Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, who has feuded with the developer and the gaming board throughout the year. Late last week, Walsh sent a letter to the gaming board threatening legal action if it went forth with the vote this week.
McHugh said the mayor’s threat did not have an effect on the board’s deliberations this week. “Hostility is part of the process,’’ McHugh said following the vote. “People of good will have very energized emotions around this.’’
The city had struck a surrounding community agreement with Mohegan Sun that would have paid it at least $18 million per year. It did not reach a deal with Wynn, though Wynn will make payments of as much as $76 million to the city per the terms of the conditions for receiving the license. Much of that will go toward Sullivan Square traffic mitigation. It is also possible that the city and Wynn could still reach an agreement.
Early during Tuesday’s meeting, Wynn representatives said they would be quick to call the mayor in hopes of working together if the company received the license.
Following the vote, Walsh released a statement saying he was unpleased with the mitigation offer on the table, but suggesting he was open to further talks with Wynn. The statement read in part:
Wynn’s current offer to the City of Boston is unacceptable. We are evaluating the gambling commission’s decision, and all of the conditions imposed on the issuance of this license.
Everything is on the table at this point, and we have never closed the door to engaging in dicsussions with Wynn.
On Wednesday, Wynn will be presented with the conditions for receiving the license. Provided Wynn accepts, the board will finalize the agreement, according to McHugh. Wynn probably won’t be officially awarded the license (or required to pay for it) until after the referendum and pending its outcome, as was the case when MGM was given approval for its Springfield plan.