Steve Wynn has dealt Everett a hand that, at least for that city’s voters, is too good not to play. The Las Vegas tycoon, seeking to nab one of the three Massachusetts casino licenses allowed under the 2011 gambling law, negotiated a deal with the gritty suburb north of Boston that will pay out at least $25 million annually in exchange for permission to build on a polluted site next to the Mystic River. If Everett voters approve the deal in a referendum on Saturday, Wynn would gain a toehold in the Boston market, while the city would hit the proverbial jackpot. In addition to the cash, Wynn’s plan would fix up many crumbling streets and open up public access to the river; he also promises to give city residents first crack at the 4,000 jobs the upscale casino will create. For a small city with a decayed industrial base, high property taxes, and limited economic prospects, Wynn offers a chance for a quick turnaround.
Yet for all the proposed benefits, the vote also exposes a shortcoming of the state’s casino-approval process. The law gives the host community an absolute veto, while leaving surrounding communities with only limited consultation. So it’s no surprise that Wynn has lavished goodies on Everett, while neighboring municipalities complain that they’ve been left out. But the impact of the casino will spill over in ways the law’s approval requirements fail to fully reflect. The site sits near the borders of Somerville, Medford, and Boston; many officials in those cities fear the plan’s impact on traffic and crime.