Massachusetts casinos already facing tough times
In Massachusetts, there is a contest going on that pits two intractable foes, where every move by one is countered by a stratagem from the other, where every point is contested, every inch of ground protected, where the word “concession” is considered dirty and low.
I bet you’re thinking I’m writing about the New York Jets/New England Patriots football rivalry or perhaps Golden Boy Quarterback Tom Brady and his arch-nemesis NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, but you would be wrong. Maybe I’m alluding to the state’s notoriously bumptious government, where Democrats and Republicans never see eye to eye on anything, but it’s not that either (sadly, sour relations between the two major political parties is a common occurrence everywhere in the U.S. these days).
Nope, what I’m describing above is the seemingly endless battle between Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh over the development of a $1.7 billion casino in the community of Everett, which happens to be adjacent to Boston. Ever since he came to office in 2014, Walsh has done everything in his power to derail Wynn’s Everett casino plans—a project that passed muster with and received a license from the state’s Gaming Commission. Walsh claimed the city of Boston and its Charlestown neighborhood would suffer severe quality of life issues if the nearby Everett casino is ever opened. He has even gone so far as to join the communities of Somerville and Revere—enclaves that lost out on a chance to host the state’s sole Boston-area casino license—in suing the Gaming Commission, alleging it intentionally violated state laws to award the license to Wynn.
Walsh may claim he is combatting the Wynn Resorts’ project on principle, but there is the nagging fact that Boston officials had signed off on a deal with Mohegan Sun, the backers of the Revere casino venture, that would have given the city a onetime payment of $30 million plus $18 million a year, according to the Boston Globe. Wynn, meanwhile, has reportedly offered the city an initial payment of $6 million and $2.6 million a year after that. I’m guessing that had Wynn ponied up an extra $20 million or so for the onetime payment and another $10 million a year for the privilege of operating a casino next to Boston, the city may never have joined the lawsuit.
But no matter, after months of bad blood and bad press, a state judge saw the lawsuit for what it was and dismissed it entirely. For better or worse, Walsh and Wynn are back to square one, and needing to find some sort of common ground.
Really, casino gaming was supposed to be beyond these types of delays in the Bay State. Sure, it took decades to finally pass casino enabling legislation in Massachusetts, but once that happened, it appears everything was in place for a smooth transition to casinos. In actuality, it has been anything but. In addition to Wynn’s woes with Boston, MGM Grand has run into roadblocks with its casino plans for Springfield, which are now well behind schedule and threatened by the potential development of a new casino across the border in Connecticut. The third major casino planned for the state has yet to be awarded, and the one casino that is up and running, the slots-only Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, is not performing up to expectations.
When Massachusetts cleared the way for casinos a few years back, a who’s who list of gaming operators planted flags in various locations, wanting to claim one of the four casino licenses in one of the few greenfield casino development markets left in the U.S. I wonder if the companies that lost out on these licenses feel so bad about that right now.