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Gambling Regulators Weigh Boston-Area Casino Proposals

As they prepare to award the lucrative Boston-area casino license, gambling regulators on Monday released detailed reports suggesting Wynn Resorts is in a stronger financial position to support its $1.6 billion casino in Everett while Mohegan Sun has submitted a stronger overall design for its $1.1 billion casino in Revere.

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The assessments, which compared each project's finances and design, kicked off the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's deliberations this week as it prepares to award the lone casino license in the area.

On Tuesday, the panel will review each project's economic development potential, their compensation agreements with area cities and towns, and traffic effects.

The commission could pick the license winner as soon as Friday.

The deliberations come less than two months before voters decide whether to repeal the state's casino law altogether. Anti-casino activists advocating for the repeal dismissed this week's license discussions.

"The entire process has been a gigantic mess," the Repeal the Casino Deal group said in a statement. "As they deliberate the awarding of a casino license for the Boston region, what we likely won't hear are the allegations of corruption, conflicts of interest, grand jury investigations, shady deals, and communities ignored."

The commission's investigative staff said Monday that none of the controversies that have emerged in the lead-up to this week's deliberations should disqualify Wynn and Mohegan Sun outright.

In a report focused on each projects' finances, Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said Wynn Resorts has a "sound ratio" of assets (about $3 billion) to liabilities (about $1.4 billion), has shown it can raise the capital needed for its project and has demonstrated success in the highly competitive gambling markets of Las Vegas and Macau.

Zuniga noted that the Las Vegas-based gambling giant also proposes to spend far more than its rival on building and other related costs, which can lead directly to local construction jobs: nearly $1 billion versus Mohegan Sun's approximately $527 million.

Turning to Mohegan Sun's project, the commissioner said nearly a third of the project's $1.1 billion price tag goes to financing, rent and other costs related to pursuing a casino license, compared to about 9 percent for Wynn's $1.6 billion project.

Zuniga also expressed concern that Mohegan Sun's proposal for the Suffolk Downs horse racing track was highly leveraged, with at least four identified equity sources.

Zuniga's analysis also rated the Connecticut-based casino operation poorly for its focus on generating profits from the Boston area rather than on using the city's destination status to lure outside and international visitors, as state lawmakers had wanted.

Mohegan Sun assumes about three-fourths of the $910 million in gross gambling revenues generated in its third year of operation will come from those living about a half hour's drive from the casino.

Wynn, in contrast, assumes nearly three-fourths of its $845 million in gross gambling revenues by year three will come from those living an hour and a half's drive or more from the casino.

In a separate analysis released Monday, acting Gaming Commission Chairman James McHugh concluded that Mohegan Sun's design, which calls for two low-slung hotels, is better suited for its surroundings than Wynn's.

He praised Mohegan Sun's design for being "suggestive of the resort legacy" of nearby Revere Beach.

In contrast, McHugh said Wynn's 27-story hotel tower didn't appear to fit the proposal's other elements, which are focused on reclaiming a heavily polluted portion of the Mystic River waterfront for public use.

He said the Everett casino, overall, falls short of Wynn's reputation for innovative design and doesn't adequately address the facility's significant impacts to regional traffic.

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