Boston Will Not Be a Bystander as Wynn Rolls the Dice on a Casino in Everett

Friday, December 21, 2012

At first blush, you’d think the biggest obstacle to building a casino in Everett was the site itself, 35 acres of vacant, contaminated land on the Mystic River, across from Charlestown and Somerville.
But it could actually be easier to clean up the site, which reportedly contains chemicals, petroleum byproducts, lead and “tunnel muck” from the Big Dig, than to overcome the certain opposition of Boston to a casino in Everett.
If Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn ends up making a serious bid for the eastern Massachusetts casino license, the powers that be in the Hub will do everything possible to stop him and to promote, instead, a casino at Suffolk Downs in East Boston.
A Suffolk Downs casino means a ton of dough every year for Boston.  A casino in Everett means no casino windfall for Boston.
The beauty part for Boston is that it can raise a slew of legitimate objections because so much of the traffic headed to an Everett casino would have to go through an already overburdened and dysfunctional Sullivan Square.  On top of that, a tiny part of Boston abuts the proposed casino site, meaning Boston would have solid legal standing to fight the casino permits.
Wynn has obviously perceived the potential chokehold Boston has on a casino development at the former Monsanto Chemical Co. site in Everett, and has decided, for the time being, to move ahead anyway.  Two days ago, he signed an option to buy the property. 
However, that doesn’t mean he’s into the deal for a prohibitive sum, and certainly not by Wynn standards of wealth. (What a great name for a gambling kingpin.)
You can assume the owners made it easy for Wynn to take that option.
There are not lot of people lined up to buy land with the environmental complications of the ex-home of Monsanto, even ones as close to downtown Boston as this.
And the owners know that, if Wynn somehow secures the eastern casino license, the profit they’d make on the resulting sale of the property to him would be incredibly higher than they hoped to make when  acquiring it several years ago for a price reported in the vicinity of $8 million.
The option to acquire this site was not the real test of Wynn’s desire to take on the owners of Suffolk Downs and their casino-operator partner, Caesar’s Palace, in a battle for the eastern license.  That will come in mid-January, when bidders for casino licenses will have to file their applications, and a $400,000 non-refundable deposit, with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Interestingly, the two putative casino sites have similar flaws.  Each will be difficult to access quickly by car (Route C-1 in East Boston and Route 99 in Everett are already clogged with traffic a good part of the day), and each is on the fringes of the capital of New England, instead of being in the heart of Boston, the best and truest place for a resort casino.


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