State gambling regulators awarded two resort casino licenses on Thursday — collecting $85 million in fees for state coffers — two days after voters overwhelmingly rejected a call to ban the casino industry from Massachusetts.
The state gambling commission formally granted licenses to Wynn Resorts for a casino hotel project in Everett and to MGM Resorts for a casino and entertainment complex in Springfield.
The awards were not a surprise. The commission had promised MGM a license in June and had chosen Wynn over a competing developer in September. But the formal awards were delayed until after voters decided a ballot question that would have repealed the state casino law and banned the gambling industry from the state. Voters strongly rejected the repeal on Tuesday, with 60 percent voting no.
Upon receiving the license, Wynn executive Robert DeSalvio presented the commission with a ceremonial oversize check for $85 million, the state fee for the resort casino license.
The company wired the fee to the commission Thursday morning, he said.
Wynn plans to start environmental cleanup of its development site early next year, he said, and hopes to open a resort designed by company chairman Steve Wynn in 2017.
“We think the Commonwealth and all its citizens will be extremely happy with the final result of what Mr. Wynn has come up with,” he said.
MGM will pay its $85 million fee on Nov. 17, the company said in a statement.
MGM Springfield president Michael Mathis said workers were on the site the day after the election, testing soil.
“It is extremely gratifying to have equipment on site, not only because it signals the start of the work, but because the people of Springfield no longer have to imagine,” he said in a statement. “Their future is now.”
The commission did not take a public position on the repeal referendum. Stephen Crosby, the commission’s chairman, acknowledged that some of the panel’s employees had been nervous about a vote that could have ended their jobs.
“Sixty percent is a landslide in most elections, but 40 percent voted” for repeal, Crosby said in comments to reporters Thursday. “That means we have to be attentive to the 40 percent of the people who would rather not have casino gaming. And we’re going to pay attention to their concerns; we’re going to pay attention to problem gambling; we’re going to pay attention to traffic; we’re going to pay attention all other kinds of mitigation.”
“The Legislature gave us the tools to do that,” he said. “We’re going to have lots of money to do that.”
The casino licensing fee will be divided among a number of public causes, such as improving transportation, public health, and education; local aid; and promoting tourism.
Also on Thursday, the commission delayed by about two months a deadline for applications for a resort casino license in Southeastern Massachusetts, giving developers until the end of January to apply.