Rival Casino Developers Make Their Pitches

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The two competing casino developers that want to build in the Boston area are making two very different pitches to the state's gaming commission.

Wednesday, the commission heard from Mohegan Sun, which wants to build a casino at Suffolk Downs in Revere, and Wynn Resorts, which wants to build a casino in Everett.

Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs drew the crowds to show support for their proposal in Revere. Suffolk Downs employees and construction workers packed the room at the Boston Convention Center to hear the team from Mohegan Sun make their pitch, which included a video with a Dropkick Murphys soundtrack.

The CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, Mitchell Etess, waxed hyperbolic when he described Suffolk Downs.

"Our property is not only the center of New England; it's the center of the entire world," Etess claimed.

Etess promised that Mohegan Sun's project would bring in the most tax money: $217 million in gaming taxes. And he pointed out that the original Mohegan Sun casino, in Connecticut, takes in the most money of any casino in the Americas. Etess pointed out that Wynn Resorts has to clean up a toxic waste site in Everett for its casino.

"We can get up and running quickly," Etess promised. "Our project is on a clean site, easy to build on, no environmental problems. Our projections estimate that we will be up and running six months earlier. That's a half a year earlier than the other applicant."

Architect Hugh Trumbull showed his firm's plans for a Mohegan Sun casino that would blend into Revere. The low-lying buildings, he said, were inspired by the beach and the sweep of the racetrack.

"We're very keen to really emphasize the horizontal, keeping the buildings low," Trumbull said. "Two hotels: one facing out towards the racetrack, the smaller one towards the beach and Revere."

The buildings would be lined with giant concrete umbrellas. Trumbull emphasized the casino's connection to the T.

"Center stage is a retail spine flanked by that umbrella that we talked about that links the entrance from the T and the bus station at one end at Beachmont and runs right through the complex," Trumbull said.

Mohegan Sun made an elaborate 90-minute presentation.

"We don't have to do that," developer Steve Wynn said. "Our places speak for us."

Wynn, who wants to build a casino in Everett, argued that his resorts are the most successful in the cities where he operates because with their volcanoes, shark tanks, white tigers, dancing fountains and Dale Chihuly sculptures, they are destinations. Wynn told reporters his casino won't need a T station.

"I don't think that our people really travel on the commuter," Wynn said. "They come by car."

Part of Wynn's 50-minute pitch was that his customers spend more money, and therefore his employees make more money in tips than at other resorts. Wynn argued that Mohegan Sun's horizontal proposal would mean longer walks for grandmothers and for room service, so long, he said, the guests' toast would get cold.

He said there is a reason casino hotels are towers, to make the experience better for the guests, and he proposed a 20-story tower. He called Mohegan Sun's proposal a three-star hotel, and promised the most luxurious hotel rooms in the Eastern United States.

"Tourism is about bringing people from over there to over here," Wynn said. "To get people to come from over there to over here, what's here has to be better than what's there."

And you can't do that with a three-star hotel, he said.

Wynn accused Mohegan Sun of proposing a casino here solely to prevent him from siphoning off customers from the casino in Connecticut.

"Mohegan Sun will do anything other than have to compete with us," Wynn said. "They care about Connecticut, where they pay a zero tax on tables. We're their worst nightmare."

And Wynn belittled Mohegan Sun's contention that his casino would take six months longer to build because he must first clean up a contaminated chemical plant site.

"It's not the six months," Wynn said. "It's forever. It's what is the contribution to the community. Is it really a tourist attraction? Is it [going to] become a destination?"

Wynn pointed out that although Mohegan Sun made more money than his top-grossing American casino, Wynn Encore, in Las Vegas, his resorts generate more money off the casino floor. So overall, he said, his resort would create more jobs and generate more sales taxes and income taxes.

And taxes, after all, are why Massachusetts legalized casino gambling in the first place.

This segment aired on January 23, 2014.

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Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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