MassDot Approves Wynn Resorts’ Everett Casino Building Plan
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation gave approval to Wynn Resorts to continue building their $1.7 billion casino in Everett, a suburb of Boston. MassDot had been signaling the gaming company’s casino development might break Massachusetts environmental laws.
J. Lionel Lucien on the Casino
In an August 21 memo, MassDot public-private development unit manager J. Lionel Lucien gave his endorsement to Steve Wynn’s plans for the development. The Boston Globe quoted Lucien as saying, “We believe that no further environmental review need be required based on transportation issues.”
Mr. Lucien said he understands underlying concerns about traffic congestion and suggested MassDot plans to continue to work with the Las Vegas casino company and “other interested stakeholders to address longer-term mitigation issues.”
Lucien sent an 8-page memo to the Matthew Beaton of the Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary. Beaton is expected to give his rulings on the same issue on August 28.
Maura Healey Stands in the Way
The Department of Transportation’s approval is not the final word, though. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is still in opposition to the development plan. She wants to delay approval until traffic congestion issues are resolved.
Recently, the AG said in the Boston Globe, that Everett and Wynn Resorts need a “long-term traffic solution to address the projected traffic that will impact the surrounding areas when the integrated casino resort starts operating.”
Charlestown Traffic Is an Issue
The city of Boston is reported to still have issues with the prospective plans Wynn Resorts have for Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue. Maura Healey happens to be a long time resident of Charlestown, so she considers the congestion problems to be a particular issue of hers.
She recently sent a public memo which said, “This dangerous and congested set of roadways may be unfamiliar to many state residents, but it serves as a major regional transit hub and access point.”
Healey and other Bostonians are also concerned about potential traffic congestion at the juncture where the Charlestown neighborhood meets Interstate 93 just beyond the North End of Boston. The area is near several local landmarks and is a key entry point into Boston proper, so traffic congestion would create a chokepoint for traffic heading north-south for many miles.
Wynn: We Won’t “Solve Decades-Long Traffic Issues”
Last week, Steve Wynn responded to Healey’s memo by saying Wynn Resorts’ mitigation plan is reasonable, but he was not prepared to bargain over unreasonable demands. He suggested that the Massachusetts Department of Justice is trying to bilk his company for improvements to longstanding traffic problems.
In his reply, Steve Wynn said Massachusetts “requires that we mitigate our traffic impacts, not solve decades-long traffic issues which pre-date our project.”
$850 Million in Mitigation Costs
Wynn Resorts has pledged to pay $850 million in various taxes, mitigation payments, and transportation improvements over the next 15 years. $210 million of the $850 milion will go to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, as well as community mitigation.
Of the rest of the money pledged, $206 million is expected to go to transportation enhancements. The enhancements package includes a Orange Line (subway) subsidy, a shuttle system, and water transport. Also, the $850 million in mitigation costs are also supposed to pay for road infrastructure improvements to the tune of $56 million to $76 million.
Playing Ball in the Northeast
Steve Wynn’s foray into New England gaming has received a great deal of push-back from local politicians. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has sided with Wynn Resorts at several steps along the way, but most other politicians have been against Wynn’s vision. Even the gaming commissioner has been attacked for his support, as he currently is undergoing an ethics review by a state ethics committee.
Meanwhile, the Wynn Everett has been the subject of several lawsuits and corruption investigations. One of the men who sold the land for the Wynn casino was personal friends of the gaming commissioner, while another of the men was a convicted criminal who was suspected of ties to organized crime. Meanwhile, Marty Walsh does not like the mitigation fees or the disruption to traffic Wynn Everett is likely to cause. The City of Boston is currently embroiled in a mitigation lawsuit with Wynn.
This might have been foreseen by Steve Wynn, but the gaming regulators of Nevada tend to be a great deal more casino-friendly. Of course, Steve Wynn has dealt with officials in the Beijing government, who are currently trying to clean up the Macau casino industry, so Wynn might view the Massachusetts politicians as a breath of fresh air.
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