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(NECN: Peter Howe, Everett, Mass.) - For the second time in less than a year, Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is trying to position himself as the challenger to presumed front-runner Suffolk Downs for the sole Eastern Massachusetts casino license.
Earlier this year, he tried and failed in suburban Foxborough, proposing with New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft a stone ski-lodge-like resort across Route 1 from Gillette Stadium. They abandoned that bid in May after overwhelming opposition from selectmen and town voters.
Now he’s considering something completely different: a casino on a 37-acre heavily contaminated industrial site along the Mystic River, bounded by Route 99 on the east and the Newburyport-Rockport commuter rail line on the east. Close neighbors include a 2,100-megawatt power plant, a car-shredding factory, sewage-pumping station and liquefied natural gas terminal that some local officials have long feared could become a terrorist target.
"I think under certain circumstances, we might be a very positive addition to Everett," Wynn said after a meeting with Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria. Wynn, 70, who suffers from macular degeneration and was declared legally blind in 2010, but demonstrates a remarkable ability to imagine and give birth to visions of new developments, said, "It is, at the moment, sort of industrial, electrical power plants, factories, trains, and things of that sort. It's sort of a ‘back-of-the-house’ area for Boston, but that doesn't mean that it can't become something altogether more complicated and more interesting that would attract people to Everett."
Wynn, who built the Bellagio and Mirage in Las Vegas and other acclaimed resorts, was asked how this could be a better casino site than Suffolk Downs on Route 1A at the East Boston-Revere line. After pausing several seconds, he smiled and said, "The developer." Wynn later admitted that it was a self-serving statement – but that his point was, unlike Caesars Entertainment and its Suffolk Down partners, he has a lengthy track record of developing what are widely praised as top-of-the-line casino/hotel/entertainment complexes.
"At the end of the day, I want to make sure that my community is behind this 100 percent," Mayor DeMaria said, acknowledging that worsening conditions on already-plugged-up Route 99 will be a challenge. "Traffic is definitely an issue," DeMaria said. "We want to make sure that those issues are taken care of. We believe that the waterways is a great way to access this site," possibly through a new water ferry to a pier on the Mystic River side of the parcel. In a follow-up interview after the news conference, DeMaria made clear he didn’t mean literally 100 percent support for the casino in a state-required referendum, but clear evidence a casino would have "overwhelming support" from the community.
Going back more than 140 years, a host of chemical manufacturers have used the site to manufacture acids and store chemicals, and it's believed to be contaminated with petroleum byproducts, lead, asbestos, and a whole range of other chemicals. Wynn seemed fairly blasé about the challenge of cleaning it up.
"It has to be cleaned. It has to be brought up to current standards, and that is part of the responsibility of the fellows that are selling us the property," Wynn said. Asked whether Wynn Resorts yet has an option to buy the land or another mechanism to get legal control over it, Wynn said, "We’re working on it."
"My company has a 45-year history of developing destination-kind-of hotels that have casinos in them, but basically, we're not primarily a casino operator. We're primarily a hotel operator," Wynn said. "I think under certain circumstances, we might be a very positive addition to Everett and to the mayor and his aldermen and his council to their planning, but we're very early in that process meeting one another, discussing it. We hope to go further with this process, and maybe become part of the community in Everett if the folks who live here think it's a good idea as we go along and sort of show our hand more completely."
Added Wynn: "My job is to be an engineer of change where I'm invited to do so."
With videographer David Jacobs.