Wynn Resorts Beats Mohegan Sun for Boston-Area Casino License

Wynn Resorts Ltd., the casino company founded by Steve Wynn, was awarded the sole license to operate a casino in the Boston area, beating a rival plan from the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 3-1 at a public hearing today after deliberating since Sept. 8. The $1.6 billion resort will be built on the site of a former chemical plant in the Boston suburb of Everett. Plans include low-profile boats ferrying guests across the harbor and a glass exterior in a color the founder calls “Wynn bronze.”

Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said Wynn Resorts’ level of capital investment, commitment to clean up the site and history of operating in competitive markets swayed him.

“We’re not the first ones to come to gaming in the region,” Zuniga said today. Wynn Resorts was “the one who can fare better in a competitive market because they’ve done it elsewhere.”

The award ends a three-year contest that saw Caesars Entertainment Corp. run afoul of state investigators, Mohegan Sun take over their site in Revere, and Wynn Resorts lose an earlier referendum in Foxborough. Massachusetts voters may still reject casino gambling in a Nov. 4 election.

Massachusetts legislators in 2011 authorized three casinos in separate regions of the state, and one slot machine-only facility. MGM Resorts International won the contest for a casino in Springfield, in the western region. Penn National Gaming Corp. is building the slot-machine parlor in Plainville. Deliberations are under way to select a licensee for the third casino in the southeastern region.

Chairman’s Recusal

Caesars dropped out of the Boston-area casino race last year after being told by state regulators it might not be approved for a license. The company sued commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, saying he was biased because of his friendship with an owner of Wynn Resorts’ land. Crosby recused himself from the past week’s deliberations.

Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts scored highly in the finance and economic-development categories evaluated by the panel, while Mohegan Sun ranked better in building design and traffic mitigation, according to the commission’s website.

Best known for his fanciful resorts in Las Vegas and Macau, Wynn, 72, pitched the project as his version of a European grand hotel, a strategy he calls Urban Wynn.

“A blackjack table or a slot machine is the same in all 37 states or any country where they exist,” Wynn said in a presentation on the project’s website. “It’s the non-casino stuff that’s the energy. That’s what gets people to come back again and again.”

As the process of awarding the casino licenses dragged on, opposition to gambling grew. A measure was placed on the November ballot that would end all of the projects.

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