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Everett voters to weigh pros, cons of casino

An artist's rendering shows a proposed resort casino on the banks of the Mystic River in Everett.

Wynn Resorts

An artist's rendering shows a proposed resort casino on the banks of the Mystic River in Everett.

EVERETT — Everett voters will decide on June 22 if they want a Las Vegas-style resort casino called Wynn Everett to rise on a vacant factory site alongside the Mystic River.

The city and casino developer Steve Wynn have completed negotiations on a community host agreement, which includes millions of dollars in new revenues and thousands of jobs with hiring preference for Everett residents. The 18-page agreement, which also outlines Wynn’s plans to improve local roads and create public access to the Mystic River, was released by Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. on April 25.

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Some voters already seem to know how they’ll cast their ballots for or against a casino in Everett.

“I feel that Everett needs jobs,” said Michele Finneran-Korn, a lifelong resident who spoke at a community meeting last week. “This is a much-needed opportunity for the city.”

“I’m against this,” said Stephen Simonelli, another longtime resident, who addressed his remarks to DeMaria. “I think this guy [Wynn] is going to take over the city. Carlo, you may lose your job, because he’s going to be the mayor.”

Scott Matson, a lawyer who moved to Everett in 2007, is undecided. “I’ll take it under advisement,” he said.

The special election is required by the state’s gambling law in order for Wynn to be approved for a casino license by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

‘This casino won’t be built unless Everett voters say it’s OK. This referendum is very important.’

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“This casino won’t be built unless Everett voters say it’s OK,” said DeMaria, a strong casino proponent. “This referendum is very important.”

Wynn has proposed a $1.2 billion resort casino on the former site of the Monsanto chemical factory off Route 99. A 19-story glass bronze tower, styled after his signature Vegas properties, would include a 24-hour casino, a 550-room hotel, upscale restaurants, and shops.

A summary of the agreement must be published in a local newspaper and on the city’s website, in advance of the election.

But on June 22, residents will not be voting on the agreement. They will be voting only on whether or not a casino should be located in Everett.

By state law established in the system to award casino licenses, the ballot question must state, “Shall the [city] permit the operation of a gaming establishment licensed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to be located at [address of site].”

Voters then will check “yes” or “no.” A simple majority is all that is required for the referendum to pass.

Everett’s referendum will be held on a Saturday instead of the usual Tuesday, with the hope of encouraging strong voter turnout, DeMaria said. “This is going to be a campaign,” DeMaria told residents at the community meeting. “You have to make sure you talk to your neighbors, and get them to vote.”

Wynn is one of three developers vying for the sole casino license available for Greater Boston, which the state’s gambling commission is expected to award by early 2014.

Suffolk Downs and Caesar’s Entertainment have partnered to propose a $1 billion development at the race track on the Revere/East Boston line, and Crossroads Massachusetts has proposed a casino for vacant land off Interstate 495 in Milford.

Those developments also would have to be approved by a local referendums if their applications to the gambling commission are to advance. But an election cannot be held until host agreements are negotiated with each community.

Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer for Suffolk Downs, said the developer hopes to conclude negotiations on host agreements with Revere and Boston soon.

“We will continue to solicit community feedback as we work through the process of earning a license to develop a world-class resort at Suffolk Downs,” Tuttle wrote in an e-mail to the Globe. “We continue to talk with both our host communities toward the goal of reaching agreements in the coming weeks.”

The law requires the gambling commission to complete background checks on casino developers before a referendum is held. But at DeMaria’s request, the commission approved an option to allow communities to hold a vote before the checks are completed.

“Steve Wynn has the capital to build this development,” DeMaria said in an interview. “I am confident there is nothing in his background that would disqualify him from getting a license.”

E-mail Kathy McCabe at kmccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.
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