The only thing needed to make it official was a few signatures, and today, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and Wynn Resorts signed the agreement to build a resort casino in Everett — but the losing bidder isn't going down without a fight.
The vote was split and predictions of the end of Suffolk Downs were immediate. But hours after the Gaming Commission's preliminary vote, awarding the Eastern Massachusetts casino to Wynn Resorts and the city of Everett, Mohegan Sun sent a letter of protest at 10 p.m. Commissioner John McHugh said that was far too late, and Mohegan Sun could’ve spoken up hours earlier, as the commission was still considering both proposals.
“At no point during that time when we at least could’ve considered it in a time that mattered, in a timely fashion, did we hear a word about any objection they had to the process,” McHugh said.
In its four-page letter, Mohegan Sun said the commission didn’t give them the same opportunities Wynn had to improve their application and fix deficiencies. They claim if they had gotten those opportunities, they would’ve taken advantage of them — for example, by increasing the estimated number of jobs to be created at a casino at Suffolk Downs in Revere.
McHugh said Wynn was only given those opportunities because it didn’t have an agreement with the city of Boston.
"We said at the outset when the city of Boston elected not to participate in the arbitration process, that we were nonetheless going to go forward and fulfill our statutory obligation to look after the interests of the city of Boston as a surrounding community and impose conditions that would mitigate the adverse impacts of the project on the city,” he said.
With that, McHugh swept past Mohegan Sun’s request to hold off on a final vote and officially signing with Wynn Resorts. He asked Wynn to accept the commission’s final conditions, including a requirement that Wynn show a hiring preference to qualified Suffolk Downs employees, if Suffolk Downs closes down as the owners now say it will, since Revere didn’t win the casino license.
Until the last minute, there was a chance Wynn would reject the conditions, and thereby the whole deal altogether. But Wynn Resorts vice president Robert DeSalvio didn’t hesitate.
"I’d be happy to respond and we do accept with all the conditions, thank you,” DeSalvio said.
Wynn general counsel Kim Sinatra said that wasn’t a tough decision.
"We’re prepared to do what the commission thinks we need to do in order to treat Boston fairly," Sinatra said. "And so we wanted to make sure they were reasonable, and allowed us to operate in a way that did not threaten the viability of our enterprise, but other than that, we wanted to do the right thing.”
The Gaming Commission’s final vote was unanimous — as opposed to their preliminary 3-1 vote — and aside from there being too few pens to go around, the official signing went off without a hitch. The Wynn team said if the necessary environmental permits to clean up the planned Everett casino site come through quickly, the casino could be open in three to four years.
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria said it would be a huge disappointment if citizens got in the way by voting against expanded gambling in Massachusetts on the November ballot. He said he would be campaigning to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“I understand people don’t like gaming, I understand that," DeMaria said. "But these facilities are going to generate thousands of jobs. There’s a lot of money to be lost. I think people understand that there are a lot of people out of work, and this is something that can generate a lot of jobs.”
As for Suffolk Downs, DeMaria said he hoped Revere finds something else to do with the site – he said it’s a nice piece of land, it has a beach, it’s close to public transportation. DeMaria said it could even be a potential site for a Boston bid for the Olympics.