For Victorious Wynn Casino, Some Heavy Lifting Remains

Download Audio
Wynn Senior Vice President Robert DeSalvio, center, looks on as James McHugh, left, signs a licensing agreement in favor of a Wynn casino Wednesday. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Wynn Senior Vice President Robert DeSalvio, center, looks on as James McHugh, left, signs a licensing agreement in favor of a Wynn casino Wednesday. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Even though he voted for the competing Mohegan Sun proposal in Revere, James McHugh sang praises for Wynn Resorts on Wednesday as he signed the license declaring them the winner of what's expected to be the most lucrative casino license in Massachusetts.

"The Wynn organization has a proven track record in a very competitive environment, both in Las Vegas and in the Far East," the gaming commissioner said. "They've done an excellent job in the face of heavy competition, and they've done it over a sustained period of time."

But for Wynn, a lot of the heavy lifting is just starting. First on their plate is a redesign of their casino exterior.

Sketches are already being drawn up for a new design — one that will still make large use of reflective glass that's become a trademark of Wynn casinos around the world.

A thornier issue is Wynn's relationship with Boston. The city essentially walked away from surrounding community negotiations during the licensing process, and Steve Wynn himself has accused the city of making irresponsible demands.

Wynn senior vice president of development Robert DeSalvio expects they will be back at the negotiating table shortly.

"We have always been ready, willing and able," he said. "We had actually excellent discussions along the way. We just want to get it started, and we believe the city wants to as well."

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sounded less optimistic in a statement released after the licensing decision. He said he still has major concerns about the traffic plan for Sullivan Square in Charlestown, which right now only includes a small fix on the western side of the traffic circle, and nothing to address larger concerns.

DeSalvio said the short-term fix can be done within six months — well before the casino opens. But a long-term overhaul of the square is another question, and one that Boston has to answer.

"We are waiting on the city, and the community to finalize its plan," he said. "We're going to have a seat at that table. Obviously, that's a longer-term project."

Even though they've won the license, Wynn Resorts is holding off on actually acquiring it and paying an $85 million license fee until after the November election.

That's because voters in November will have the chance to repeal the state's expanded gaming law — potentially rendering the whole process null and void.

So far, Wynn has said it won't get involved in the campaign to defeat the question, calling it a moral issue that should be left to voters.

But after signing the license agreement, DeSalvio appeared to walk back those statements.

"We have always said it's up to the citizens of the commonwealth of Massachusetts to make that decision come November," he said. "Whether or not we're going to get involved at a later date, we really haven't come to that conclusion yet."

Assuming the ballot question is rejected, Wynn plans to begin cleaning the site the day after the election. The clearing process is expected to take five or six months.

Total construction is expected to take about three years.

Wynn officials hope to have the site up and running before Christmas in 2017.

Correction: An earlier version of this report included an outdated figure for Wynn's mitigation payments to Boston, cited by Boston's mayor. We've removed the figure.

This article was originally published on September 17, 2014.

This segment aired on September 17, 2014.

Jack Lepiarz Reporter and Anchor
Jack Lepiarz was a reporter and anchor at WBUR.



More from WBUR

Listen Live