Panel Picks Wynn's Everett Casino Proposal

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The lucrative Greater Boston casino license is poised to go to the banks of the Mystic River, after three of four state gaming regulators voted Tuesday in favor of Wynn Resorts' $1.6 billion casino proposal in Everett.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission's 3-1 vote backed Wynn — which wants to turn a heavily polluted, former chemical plant site on the Mystic waterfront into a resort casino — over Mohegan Sun's $1.1 billion casino plan for the Suffolk Downs racetrack in Revere.

"It's a great day for the city of Everett, a great opportunity to clean up that site, which has just been sitting for so long, and we hope that our project will just be the start of continued economic development for the [area]," Wynn executive Robert DeSalvio said.

In their support of the Everett project, the three commissioners cited Wynn Resorts' stronger finances, and that Wynn promised to offer higher salaries to casino workers and proposed spending more in hard construction costs than Mohegan Sun.

The casino is expected to employ about 3,500 people.

Commissioner James McHugh voted in the minority, for the Suffolk Downs plan. He said the Wynn proposal was too risky for a number of reasons, including that Wynn had not developed strong relationships with Boston and other surrounding communities.

A fifth gaming panel member, Stephen Crosby, had recused himself from voting on the region's casino license, after his impartiality was questioned.

Tuesday's decision came after Wynn conceded to a number of significant requests commissioners made, including proposing alternative designs for its 27-story glass hotel tower. Wynn on Tuesday also agreed to pay millions more toward long-term plans to address traffic through Sullivan Square in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has been a harsh critic of the casino licensing process, said in a statement that "serious questions remain around Sullivan Square and Rutherford Ave, and other impacts in Charlestown." He said he "will continue to do everything to protect the people of Charlestown."

In a pair of statements, Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun officials said they are "extremely disappointed" with the commission's vote. Suffolk's COO, Chip Tuttle, said in his statement that management "will be meeting with employees and horsemen over the next several days to talk about how we wind down racing operations" at the 79-year-old track.

Both Everett and Revere had approved the respective casino proposals in municipal referenda. Wynn's voting margin was larger than the Mohegan Sun plan.

Another vote looms. On November's ballot, Massachusetts voters will weigh repealing the 2011 casino law in its entirety. Recent polls, however, have that repeal effort as a long shot.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom

This article was originally published on September 16, 2014.