Thoughts on Everett Casino: 'Lottery Winner Tragedies' Can Befall Cities, Too

Monday, April 29, 2013

Steve Wynn is apparently the answer to the City of Everett’s prayers.
The casino mogul is dying to hand over tens of millions of dollars to the city, and the city is dying to take it.  There are huge needs in this old, industrial city where 40,000 people, a large segment of them immigrants, live in just a few square miles.
Everybody in Everett should stop and ponder the words of St. Theresa of Avila, the Spanish mystic who said that more troubles have been caused in life by answered prayers than unanswered ones.
There were big doings last week in the case of the casino Wynn Resorts wants to build on the Mystic River-front site of the former Monsanto chemical factory, across from Charlestown and Somerville. 
The mayor of Everett and and Wynn signed a host city agreement.  This is a major step for any casino development in Massachusetts. 

A special election can now be held in Everett, perhaps as soon as June 22, for citizens to vote for or against that agreement. Almost everybody you talk to in Everett expects a decisive vote in favor of it.  The agreement is a slam dunk, many say. 
Wynn Resorts, by the way, will pay all costs associated with the special election.
If voters endorse the casino plan, Wynn will next have to negotiate agreements to reduce the impacts of the casino on neighboring communities.  Chelsea, Revere, Medford, Somerville and Boston will no doubt reach for the stars, cash- and prizes-wise, but hardball tactics will only take them so far.  If any of them is unable to reach a mitigation agreement with Wynn, the matter will be submitted to the state for binding arbitration; a state arbitrator will set the terms and the communities will have to accept.
With the host-city and neighboring-city agreements in hand, Wynn will be ready to approach the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for a state license to operate a casino. 
Much to the chagrin of his competitors at Suffolk Downs, who have been in this hunt much longer, Wynn will almost certainly be the first to seek the single casino license available in Eastern Massachusetts.
Not a year ago, Suffolk Downs was the only eastern contender. 
Here are some of the Everetticing details of the pending host city agreement:
·         After the Gaming Commission awards the license to Wynn and as soon as Wynn begins building it, Wynn will pay Everett $30 million.
·         Every year the casino is operating, Wynn will make a community impact payment and a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the city.
·         The annual community impact payment will be $5 million, increasing at a rate of 2.5% per year.
·         The annual PILOT will be $20 million, also increasing at a rate of 2.5% per year.
·         Wynn will cooperate in any efforts the city makes to impose local-option meals taxes and hotel room taxes, in addition to the state levies already in place on those items.
·         Wynn will pay all reasonable costs incurred by Everett in reviewing and inspecting his applications for permits and licenses, and his construction and utility plans.
·         Through an annual payment of $250,000, Wynn will fund a new Everett Citizens Foundation that will support and promote local groups, associations and programs “with important city initiatives,” whatever those may be.
·         Wynn will purchase and give away at least $50,000 a year in vouchers and gift certificates from Everett businesses beyond the casino site as part of the casino’s “rewards/frequent guest/loyalty or similar programs.”
·         Wynn will give preferential treatment to qualified Everett residents “for contracting, subcontracting and servicing opportunities in the development and construction” of the casino.
·         In hiring people to work in the casino, Wynn will give “reasonable preference to properly qualified residents of the city, to the extent that such a practice and its implementation is consistent with federal, state or municipal law or regulation.”

One day in the not-too-distant future, Everett could be knee-deep in a tide of casino dollars. 

If everybody there isn't careful, everybody, the grand jury might arrive on the next wave. 
I’m happy for the city and its people.  Everett is a great community.  The school system is excellent.  The neighborhoods are family-friendly.  The city possesses rich traditions and genuine character.  And if  none of this were true, I’d still love Everett because it’s where my wife, the former Margaret Curnane, was born and raised.  She still refers to it as “my Everett.” 
God knows Everett can use an infusion of cash, as well as a steady source of new, big-time revenue.  What city in Massachusetts can’t?
But newfound wealth is seldom an unalloyed blessing.  It inevitably produces headaches.  Often it causes heartbreak.
Go on the Internet and type three words into Search: lottery winner tragedies.  You’ll quickly see what I'm talking about.
Is there a good reason to believe that the tragedies that befall individuals who become fabulously wealthy overnight can't or won’t befall an organization, company, or government entity?
Human beings do wild things when they’re intoxicated by money.  Last time I checked, there were no cities populated and run by aliens.   Super-rational, totally unemotional creatures do not live on this planet; they do not run for office in Massachusetts; they do not apply for jobs and contracts at casinos; and they do not get appointed to citizen foundations.

NEXT: Precautions Everett could take to avoid squandering casino wealth.


Unknown said... Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

DAKourtz said...

Just as there are human tragedies caused by cash infusion, there's lots of cities that are struggling with the issue of resident gambling facilities. I think your perspective can be enhanced or validated with a bit of research.

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Winner Casino have revolutionized the world of gambling and today is a visit to the local casino is no longer necessary.

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