By Brendan Clogston
Today’s Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) meeting will be a make-or-break moment for Wynn Boston Harbor, but at least as of press time, the show will go on as Wynn hosts a topping-off celebration at the construction site on Lower Broadway.
While Mayor Carlo DeMaria and Wynn officials have been publicly bullish on the $2.4 billion casino’s future, MGC Chair Stephen Crosby’s February statement that construction at the site is proceeding on an “at risk” basis while MGC investigates Wynn Resorts’s response to reports of sexual misconduct on the part of its founder and former CEO, Steve Wynn, has set off a series of reports, fears, speculation and rumors about what will happen to the half-constructed tower on the Mystic River. Once it was thought that its name could be changed; now there are fears that the building itself might change hands, with reports that MGM has approached Wynn to purchase the property.
Mayor Carlo DeMaria appeared before the City Council on Monday night to update the council and to assuage their fears about the project. The mayor was careful with his words and reluctant to answer all of their questions; however, several times he stated his belief that the project is “moving forward” and that Wynn is fully cooperating with the investigation.
“They’re fine with whatever the outcome is,” said DeMaria. “The issue they believe has been rectified. … They want to do business here and they’re the company they want here”
MGC has been quiet about the investigation’s progress. But according to DeMaria, the thinking of Wynn Resorts officials is that their attempt to have Steve Wynn removed from the suitability portion of the company’s license – which they will formally request before the commission on Friday – will tell them what they want to know about MGC’s attitude.
“From what the CEO [Matt Maddox] tells me, as long as Friday goes well and Mr. Wynn is removed from suitability – because if he’s not removed from suitability then we know that they don’t want them as a company to do business – if they want them, they’ll remove him from suitability; they’ll do suitability on the rest of the board members, and they’re fine with that,” said DeMaria.
The mayor pushed back against any possibility that the casino would be sold, answering a question by Ward 2 Councillor Stephen Simonelli about what would happen to the city’s Host Community Agreement if the casino changed hands by saying he “wasn’t even thinking of that” and that it’s “not going to happen.”
“I don’t know how you’d even do it,” said DeMaria. “I’d ask the attorneys working on this, but the city voted on a Host Community Agreement with Wynn as the operator; 8,600 residents voted for this one particular company. How do they sell project and how do I agree to that? I can’t do that.”
DeMaria has maintained that he has veto power over any sale of the property, and will use it to maintain what he views as being a transformative “vision” for the city. “It’s not what they’re going to do with that one facility, it’s the vision they shared with us for the Lower Broadway Master Plan,” said DeMaria. “It’s what happens with the $100 million worth of parcels that they overpaid for that they want to control what happens at; it’s the ancillary developments of hotels or restaurants, the transportation plan, the rapid bus and commuter rail extension, the pedestrian footbridge. It’s all the other amenities that this developer is going to do, promised to do, that no one else will do. Right now they’re designing the Silver Line extension; they’re modeling the commuter rail stop. They’re doing all that for nothing. No other company would have done that.”
Keeping the City Council in the loop
The item appeared on the calendar in large part because several councillors reported feeling “slighted” by not being kept up to date by the developer. The company holds regular meetings with several councillors, such as the ward councillor and council president; however, several councillors – including Councillor-at-Large Wayne Matewsky, Ward 6 Councillor Michael Marchese, Ward 2 Councillor Stephen Simonelli and Ward 4 Councillor John Leo McKinnon – stated that they feel in the dark as regards much that has transpired with the city’s largest business.
“I didn’t get a Christmas card from them,” said Matewsky. “I get more information from a hot dog stand on the parkway. You’d think they’d want somebody with the knowledge I have to come down. I’ve been an official in this city for a long time, and I feel slighted. You’ve got to have communication. I’m a city father. I want to know what’s going on down there. What’s wrong with that?”
McKinnon asked the mayor to get Wynn Resorts officials to hold a presentation with the council at one of their regular meetings. “I was in Rhode Island, and someone was asking me there, ‘Is this happening?’ and I didn’t have an answer for them,” said McKinnon.
The mayor stated that while he isn’t sure “if there’s a presentation to be had,” he would reach out to the company and make sure that each councillor was in touch.