Shirley Leung

Don’t bet on the rules trumping casino politics

Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts, delivered the keynote address at Colliers International Annual Seminar at the Boston Convention Center in January.
Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts, delivered the keynote address at Colliers International Annual Seminar at the Boston Convention Center in January. Associated Press

We’ve gotten so worked up about possibly hosting the Olympics that we’ve essentially talked ourselves out of it before organizers can finish the plan.

But even when something is robustly debated, signed into law, approved twice by voters, and given a license, we find reasons to say “Not in my backyard.”

Maybe our state motto should be: Stay Wicked Far Away.

That’s how Steve Wynn must feel these days. The Las Vegas mogul has been trying to build a $1.7 billion casino in Everett and create 4,000 permanent jobs. It hasn’t been easy wading through our thicket of regulations. He once described doing business in Massachusetts as “daunting”, “confusing,” and “who knows what is next there.”


He didn’t know the half of it. We were just getting started with him.

In January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh went to war, suing the state gaming commission and alleging that its licensing process was flawed and that Wynn never should have won.

On Monday, two days before Wynn was to file his final application in the state permitting process, Attorney General Maura Healey weighed in.

Wynn’s traffic study, which is part of the permitting process, is no good, Healey declared. Never mind it’s an analysis that is dictated by state regulations and one that every major development goes through. Never mind that the study has been reviewed by the state and nearby cities. Never mind that Wynn has agreed to spend close to $77 million to fix the roads and $5.7 million to subsidize the Orange Line.

Instead, Healey wants the state to change the rules midstream and order up another study analyzing the casino’s impact on traffic in the region, not just in surrounding communities.

Wynn will tell you he has nothing against doing a regional evaluation, except that’s not what the state asked him to do. Why should he be subject to special rules?


Last I checked, we elected Healey to be our attorney general, not the secretary of transportation. This is naked politics at play. Hard to see how Healey, who unabashedly opposes casinos, has much of a case here. She actually might have more credibility as a concerned resident of Charlestown, the Boston neighborhood that will be most affected by the Wynn casino.

But Healey insists she’s just doing her job, which is to protect the public’s interests.

“I believe this is appropriate for the attorney general’s office to speak to. Somebody has to raise these issues,” she said. “We only have one chance to get it right.”

Well, Wynn didn’t let Healey’s Hail Mary stop him from turning in his 10,000-page application for a permit on Wednesday. Now the state has until the end of August to decide if the billionaire, who has built casinos from Vegas to Macau, can break ground in a town few tourists have ever been to.

No one hold your breath on what might happen here. Leave it to Governor Charlie Baker to bring some sanity to the situation.

“The facts change from case to case, but the process is what the process is. It has been that way for a long time,” Baker told me. “In the case with regard to Wynn casino, we pursue the same process we have been pursuing.”

“I’m not going to change it. I don’t think we should change it,” he said. “We have a process. We should use it.”


In other words: Request denied, Madam Attorney General.

Businesses like predictability, and the only thing predictable about Massachusetts is our unpredictability.

If New York is the City that Never Sleeps, then Boston is the City that Never Lets Anything Happen.

It’s time we wake up.

Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung.