EVERETT — In a winding stump speech that linked casino hotel development to Maya Angelou and the origins of life, Las Vegas magnate Steve Wynn on Friday campaigned in person for his proposed $1.2 billion gambling resort on the Mystic River.
Addressing a friendly crowd of a couple hundred people at the Everett Armory, a humble space gussied up for the occassion with flowing gold drapes, Wynn was light on new details — nothing about traffic mitigation plans, for instance — but heavy on imagery and passion. Speaking without notes, he walked the crowd through two new renderings of the project, and then veered into a long explanation of his philosophy of building design.
Paraphrasing the poet Angelou — though mistakenly attributing the quote to Nelson Mandela — Wynn said: “They’ll forget what you said, they’ll forget what you did. But they’ll never forget how you made them feel.
“Same thing about hotels: It’s emotion. You don’t care about marble or crystal chandeliers or onyx. If those materials produce the right emotions, you use them. What really matters is what people feel.”
Everett voters on June 22 will decide in a referendum if they feel comfortable allowing Wynn’s project in their city. No casino proposal can win a state license without the endorsement of its host community. Wynn is competing for a resort casino development rights with Suffolk Downs, in East Boston, and Foxwoods, which has joined a casino venture in Milford. The Everett vote next month will be the first binding casino referendum since the state’s 2011 casino law was passed.
Wynn has built several of the most expensive to develop hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, such as Bellagio, Mirage and the Wynn and Encore resorts. In his remarks Friday, Wynn said that grand hotels have become too costly to build in most great cities. “The price that people pay for just rooms is not enough to justify the tremendous cost of construction these days,” he said.
“We build fanciful hotels because we can have a damn casino to pay for them,” he said, drawing chuckles from the crowd. “That’s what I like about casinos. They allow us to build fanciful and unusual food, beverage, entertainment, convention, and hospitality places.
“I’ve been doing it all my life and I can’t tell the difference between one slot machine or another,” said Wynn. “It’s who’s in the hotel that makes the difference. It’s the non-casino stuff that’s the energy. That’s what gets people on an airplane or to travel” to a hotel casino.
Speaking specifically about the Everett project, Wynn said the lobby will include natural light and lots of plants, which he said triggers a primal feeling that goes back to the origins of life.
“The reason I say atrium and skylights — and all our hotels have these things — is that for the last 800 million years, since multi-cellular life appeared on this planet, the story of life on this planet is basically the function of three primordial forces: the energy of the sun coming through our atmosphere, water, and plants that make oxygen,” said Wynn.
“The story of life is about sunlight, oxygen and plants. When I’m trying to touch people, I stick pretty close…to those fundamental forces of life,” he said. “So we use skylights and atriums — natural light, wherever and whenever we can. Because whether you’re aware of it or not, those elements touch you and immediately make you feel good.”
In an interview after his presentation, Wynn said, “It feels good here” in Everett. “It’s very difficult to do this if there’s a contentious environment.”
Wynn would know — in 2012 he campaigned for several months to build support for a casino in Foxborough near Gillette Stadium, but dropped the proposal amid fierce opposition. The political climate in Everett has been entirely different, he said.
“Here, they’re glad to have us around.”Mark Arsenault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark