You’ve got to wonder what Steve Wynn of Las Vegas and Macau must have thought about his virgin trip to the land of Foxborough.
Wynn is one of the world’s foremost collectors of fine art, a remarkably sophisticated businessman who single-handedly transformed the gambling industry in Vegas with his vision of service-oriented, themed hotels, a stickler for design and architecture who owns some of the world’s most upscale resort casinos.
And there he was, apparently getting compared by his new friend, Bob Kraft, to the mumbling and socially-challenged Patriots coach, Bill Belichick, in what was undoubtedly meant as a compliment. Wear that hoodie proudly, Steve. At the same time, he was dealing with a bunch of local officials who should be commended for not asking the natural question: “Any chance we could get a picture together?’’
Wynn was long gone by Monday afternoon, so I called him in Las Vegas. I could all but hear the press assistant slowly whispering the words “Country Bumpkin’’ and “Palookaville’’ as she was supposed to be writing down my name and Boston Globe. Hard to believe that a day later, I had yet to get a call back.
But in his absence there remained a question for the good people of Foxborough: Do you want a billion dollar resort casino or not? And though he didn’t say it exactly this way, his message was clear: Chop-chop, time’s a wasting, hurry up and make up your minds.
So were there plans to see? Not exactly. Drawings? Not yet. A little sketch on the back of a napkin from Kraft’s suite at Gillette? Sorry, what happens in the Kraft suite stays in the Kraft suite.
Now just for the record, I admire Bob Kraft. Obviously, I don’t admire Bob Kraft as much as Bob Kraft admires Bob Kraft, because that would be impossible. But it’s an unimpeachable fact that he’s done extraordinary work transforming his football franchise and has done enormous civic good in the process.
Which is what made the spectacle of Kraft and Wynn on Sunday and Monday somewhere a little north of bizarre, two guys ham-handedly trading on their good names. Wynn came to town on what was - wink, wink - a Game Day at Gillette. A stream of local officials were ushered into the stadium as the Patriots played on live TV. OMG! If it had slipped anyone’s mind that the local guy behind this casino proposal happened to own the NFL franchise, then the 70,000 cheering people all around him served as a decent reminder. But really, folks, it’s two separate things.
Monday brought the dreaded news media. But just four filibustered questions and 30 minutes into what was scheduled as an hour interview with the Globe, Kraft abruptly announced to our reporters, “We’re 10 minutes late.’’ And it was done.
Let’s think about that: While he’s asking residents of what he’s described as his hometown to begin making the biggest civic decision of their collective lives, he’s meeting with unidentified officials behind closed stadium doors, answering questions by the thimbleful, and counting the minutes until he’s done. The Bob Kraft I thought I knew is better than that.
This is a complicated choice, for the residents of Foxborough who get to decide in a referendum whether they want a massive resort casino, and for the state gaming commission that gets to decide where the licenses go.
There is mitigation to discuss, new schools, new everything, even property tax relief. There is the driving need to inspect plans. There are questions over how close the Wampanoags might be with their proposed casino, and whether a slot license will end up in a racetrack up the road.
Foxborough may or may not be the best site for a destination resort, and Wynn may or may not be the best person to build it. But Steve and Bob need to be more forthcoming than they were in their odd debut. The pressure’s not on Foxborough, but on them.