EVERETT – Casino magnate Steve Wynn today cracked a joke, expressed interest in doing business in Massachusetts and toured the site of a former chemical plant – but made no commitment to building a destination casino here.
Flanked by Mayor Carlo DeMaria, Wynn told reporters at City Hall this afternoon that he wants to expand his gambling company into Massachusetts under the right circumstances and vowed that his company will only go where the host community supports a casino.
Wynn spent several months in early 2012 pitching a $1 billion casino plan to Foxborough, on land near Gillette Stadium he intended to lease from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. But the casino billionaire was unable to persuade local voters to embrace the plan.
“Massachusetts has become very interesting to my company,’’ said Wynn after he viewed a potential casino site on the Mystic River. “When we were in Foxborough, we engaged the whole economic, demographic posture of Massachusetts. And had to come to the conclusion: Would this be a sound place to make a business investment? And under certain circumstances, the answer was yes. Again reminding ourselves that if the community felt it was a good idea, then probably the economics justified the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars.’’
He was asked what distinguished a casino in Everett from a casino that a rival group is hoping to build at the Suffolk Downs track in neighboring Boston and Revere. Wynn paused for a moment and then broke into a grin.
“The developer,’’ he said.
Wynn spoke after touring what is known locally as the Monsanto Chemical site, a large, flat field of crushed rock and gravel. He said later that he does not yet have a deal to either buy or lease the parcel of nearly 30 acres that is currently owned by a Cambridge-based company.
Until this week, Wynn’s withdrawal from Foxborough left Suffolk Downs as the only formal applicant for the sole Greater Boston resort casino license, but the state gambling commission has openly fretted about the lack of competition in the region.
Wynn, the creator of iconic hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, such as Bellagio, Mirage, and the Wynn and Encore resorts, said Wednesday that the facilities that he builds transforms their locations into destinations.
The state’s casino legislation was designed to award development rights through a competition, in order to encourage developers to try to outdo each other with bigger investments and more creative plans.
Under the casino law, the state gambling commission can issue up to three licenses for resort-style casinos, no more than one in each of three regions of the state. The panel also controls one slot parlor license, which can be built in any region.
Competition has been robust in Western Massachusetts, with three casino resort proposals for Springfield, one for Palmer, and a new prospect in Holyoke. Commercial casino development is on hold in the southeast to allow the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe time to make progress on a tribal casino, which must win federal approval.