Mass. casino investigators OK Wynn

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December 16, 2013, 5:04 pm
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(NECN: Peter Howe, Boston) - Massachusetts Gaming Commission investigators Monday reported finding nothing that should lead commissioners to reject Wynn Resorts as unsuitable to compete for a casino license in eastern Massachusetts.

And even as it marked a big step ahead for his $1.3 billion plan for a destination resort casino on the banks of the Mystic River in Everett becoming an international destination for high-rollers from China, Brazil and abroad, Steve Wynn, who is age 71, got many tongues wagging when he dozed off for several minutes as Gaming Commission attorneys grilled his aides about details of his Macau casino operations.

"Do we need to take a break?" Commissioner James McHugh, a former Superior Court judge, asked as Wynn was slumped over with his eyes closed between former Massachusetts Governor William F. Weld, now an influence-wielding lawyer with the Boston law firm Mintz Levin, and Wynn Resorts senior vice president and general counsel Kim Sinatra. "Mr. Wynn looks like he’s tired," McHugh said.

After it appeared Weld gave him a nudge, Wynn sat up suddenly and said he was "just bored."

"He’s OK," Weld said. "Thank you, judge."

Wynn did stay awake and got feisty at times during the rest of the session, then took questions from reporters for nearly a half hour in the hall outside the hearing room at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

After deriding the Gaming Commission as a "freshman regulatory agency" in October and calling its commissioners "new and inexperienced," Monday Wynn was nothing but complimentary about how its investigators have put Wynn resorts through the ethical wringer.

"The detectives, they did, you know, tons of work. If there was anything juicy, you would have heard it in the investigative summary, and there would have been an objection. The fact that they didn't raise issues is not because they didn't go looking," Wynn said. "They're very intelligent people here. They really are, and I say that sincerely. I don't need to butter up anybody. I'm impressed."

Wynn also said he has no concerns about Gaming Commission chairman Steve Crosby’s ability to choose objectively between his Everett casino plan and a Mohegan Sun casino at Suffolk Downs – if Revere voters approve that in February – given Crosby’s past business ties to and 40-year friendship with a part-owner, Paul Lohnes, of the Everett land Wynn would buy to build the casino. (With Crosby recusing himself, the four other commissioners voted 4-0 on Friday to approve a new land transaction deal that sets a “fair market value” price on the 25-acre, heavily polluted former Monsanto Chemical site, so that Crosby’s friend, Lohnes, won’t make any more money selling the land to Wynn if Crosby’s commission awards Wynn the casino license than Lohnes would make selling to anyone else.) Many Crosby critics say he should recuse himself from any vote on the eastern Massachusetts casino because he will be seen as either doing his friend a favor, or unfairly bending over backwards to not do his friend a favor that it’s unfair to Wynn, but Crosby insists the intense public scrutiny under which he and fellow commissioners will review the plans will reassure voters and citizens he can be objective.

"That's a cockamamie thing," Wynn said with a contemptuous snort of laughter as he was asked whether Crosby is too conflicted to rule on the casino vote. "Absolutely not," Wynn said. "Steve Crosby’s reputation, I've read it, is unblemished."

In other comments with reporters, Wynn stressed that the Everett casino will be a glamorous resort destination bringing in high-rolling international gamblers including many who now come to Las Vegas. "It's a big investment for us here in Boston. This is not a box of slots. This is a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am fancy hotel,'' Wynn said.

While the 25 acre site on the banks of the Mystic River is surrounded by a power plant, car-crushing factory, liquefied natural gas terminal and sewage pumping station, Wynn said it will become something beautiful. "That site, we're spending a lot of money with berming and trees and landscaping, so that the only thing you'll see is the skyline of Boston, and you'll drive in through trees. You won't see any of the industrial remnants of that site if we develop it.''

Wynn also was cagey about disclosing just what subjects came up when he visited legislators on Beacon Hill, but indicated he thinks there are adjustments that need to be made to the November 2011 legalized gambling act to ensure project developers reap adequate profits to deliver the promised jobs.

"There's a discussion that has to go on as we marry the initial notion of the legislation to the practical requirements of an operation, and to have a stable workforce,'' Wynn said. "Remember, the motivation for this law, if there was one, was jobs and taxes. In other words, the business has got to be successful, OK? Now, you've got operating partners that are coming into the scene. If they have the credibility to be picked, they ought to have enough credibility to ask them a few questions and listen to what they say.'' Wynn would not, however, specify what amendments or changes he thinks are necessary to the law that authorized up to three casinos and one slots parlor statewide.

With videographer Daniel A. Valente Jr.

Tags: Boston, massachusetts, Peter Howe, Everett, Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts, Masaschusetts Gaming Commission
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