Steve Wynn, winner of the casino license for the Greater Boston area
Steve Wynn, winner of the casino license for the Greater Boston area










Watching from his casino in Vegas Steve Wynn saw the gambling commission in Massachusetts hand his company the license for a casino near Boston, his reaction was instantly… er… sympathetic?

Steve Wynn is sitting pretty. He’s just won the license to provide a casino to the Greater Boston area, beating out Mohegan Sun to gain an extremely lucrative opportunity that has been hard fought and the grinning Wynn said he had some sympathy for his competitors who lost out on the deal and will now have to watch as his “sexy high-rise” development, costing some $1.6bn starts to take shape and construction gets underway at the site in Everett, Massachusetts, less than five miles from Boston city center.

Wynn Is Boston’s Casino License Winner

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“We’re going to take their best customers,” Wynn sympathized, in the manner of someone attempting not to gloat whilst in precisely the sort of position where one is inclined to do exactly that. “It was a tough day for them; they needed this deal very badly,” he continued making you wonder if “sympathy” is defined differently in his dictionary. This is supposedly a conciliatory tone from the man that will build a casino on the Mystic River waterfront, who is trying to soothe the way forward after some public moments of heated debate. Given how he “sympathizes” you can just imagine what he’s like when he’s trying to be critical.

Steve is going to need a lot of smart strategies like this as some of the feathers he’s ruffled have belonged to city Mayor Martin J. Walsh. To say the relationship between them has been chilly thus far would be an insult to penguins and Mr. Wynn is pulling out all the stops to smooth the way forward with a man he now has to deal with on a day to day basis as the complex nature of casino construction and area rejuvenation will all require a working relationship between the two men, although what form that will take remains to be seen.

“I’m going to go make friends with the mayor,” Wynn insists, “I’ve got to be his guy. We’re spending a billion-six here – if it’s a nickel, it’s a billion-six,” he reminds us, adding perhaps for the mayor, “I’m his best incoming businessman, this company, and I can’t function without him,” which is entirely true, and he continued “It has got to be a relationship that’s constructive and positive. And why not?” A question the mayor may well be asking himself too. As the dust settles after the contest to win the license there may well be an inclination on both sides to just move on.

Project Will Have Knock On Effects Across The Region

The Wynn victory, 3-to-1 in front of the state gambling commission, came as a bit of a surprise and one that has already had knock-on effects across the region with the obvious implications it has for future performance in the shadow of this new gleaming center of gambling. Management of the last thoroughbred racetrack in New England, Suffolk Downs, have disclosed that after 79 years it will be closing unable to remain viable in light of this new development in Everett, and it may not be the last establishment to feel the pinch.

Wynn is Boston’s casino license winner
Wynn is Boston’s casino license winner

The decision wasn’t taken lightly with the local economy being paramount in the minds of the commission all too aware of the calamitous events in Atlantic City. It is perhaps the capital backing behind the Wynn bid that finally won them over, something Wynn himself admits was probably a big factor in their decision. “In order for this to be a stable deal,” he said, “one of the criteria should be that it can withstand and economic downturn,” and it may well need to but Wynn, a man with impeccable casino table manners, as ever, remains confident.

“Capital structure isn’t an eyeshade economic thing; It’s about your ability to protect your workforce and your service levels.” Given his bid also won on having a larger projected workforce, payroll and construction investment, that capital bulwark is likely to be the guarantee against Boston ending up with an abandoned concern, a la Atlantic City which now has four empty hulks, two years or so down the line. Especially not such a gaudy building.

Building design is perhaps not Mr. Wynn’s forte, the proposed building, in the opinion of many, leaves something to be desired… like a different design. He called it a “sexy high-rise” but it was roundly criticized for lacking imagination the glass structure may yet see some tweaking to make it more attractive, although the degree to which that will be putting lipstick on a pig is anyone’s guess. “It’s either bronze or it’s blue, light blue,” said Wynn referencing the glass that could cover the entire building, but has invited opinions from the commission who it is felt may well have several however as a edifice to provide a range of casino games sex appeal of the building might prove a secondary concern.

International Business, Local Election

Turning the casino, whatever shape it ends up being, into a success may well be even more tricky than getting it up and running which in of itself has a few tricky parts to it. For a start the site in question is a polluted former Monsanto chemical site, a phrase which alone should trigger a desire in each of us to reach for a hazmat suit, and cleaning that up will take time. There is also the slightly vexed question of the sellers of the land in question, who it transpired recently have undisclosed partners with criminal records, which triggered the sort of scrutiny no construction project needs.

These however pale into insignificance in comparison with the dragon in the room, the mid-term elections. When Massachusetts goes to the polls this November one of the questions on the ballot, the third one, will ask if they wish to repeal the states laws on gambling. In effect with Wynn deal having won the people could possible speak out and pull the rug from under the entire project, which is why the option to buy the land will only be exercised after this vote. Of course Wynn attempts to spin it not as a fly in the soup but an opportunity to put the issues to rest.

“If there is a vocal group that is anti-gaming,” explained Wynn, “that has to affect regulators and everybody else, whether they admit it or are aware of it or not. It colors our presence. The idea that the citizens of Massachusetts are actually going to speak on the subject makes life simpler.” A statement almost certainly made in light of the fact polls show around 60% of the public still supporting the casino strategy and only around 35% in favor of repealing the law, so Wynn is probably on quite firm, if somewhat polluted, ground.

His Vegas experience and established 5-star brand are likely to mean that Wynn can make a success out of this opportunity, especially by making effort to bring in overseas gamblers, something new direct flights from Beijing and Hong Kong to Boston by Cathay Pacific will assist, although as Mr. Wynn is at pains to point out he does have a jet of his own to transport the really high rollers. All in all Wynn really does have much to gloat about, but his reaction on hearing he’d won was full of his brand of sympathy – “I turned to my wife and said, ‘Oooh Mohegan Sun, tough day.” How charming.