Panel has Wynn ahead of Mohegan Sun on finances
Scrutiny goes on for 2 casino bids in Boston area
The proposed Wynn Resorts in Everett appeared to have emerged in a strong position Tuesday from the first phase of a state gambling commission evaluation, posting higher numbers than its rival, Mohegan Sun, in several key financial areas over the course of two days.
The exhaustive assessment, which will be followed by three or more days of negotiations and deliberations, found that the Everett proposal would create 1,000 more jobs than Mohegan Sun, pay the employees more, spend substantially more locally on goods and services, and invest more than twice as much in the building’s construction.
Wynn’s business philosophy — to bring new money into the local economy by courting out-of-state and international customers — has also scored well in the detailed evaluations made public this week by the state gambling commission.
“I would probably say that, at this point, Everett has got somewhat of an advantage,” said the Rev. Richard McGowan, a Boston College casino specialist.
But hanging over the Wynn proposal are complaints about its building design and serious concerns about traffic problems in Sullivan Square in Charlestown, a notorious bottleneck through which Wynn estimates about 60 percent of its incoming traffic would pass.
Mohegan Sun’s graceful building design for its Revere facility at Suffolk Downs and a much better-received traffic plan are the company’s major advantages in the competition for the Greater Boston casino license.
Also, each developer will be asked this week to accept changes in their proposals to address weaknesses, which could factor into the commission’s deliberations.
The long-anticipated public review of the competing casino proposals began Monday, with commissioners taking two days to explain the results of their evaluations across five categories.
Wynn won the finance and economic development categories, which measure financial strength and contributions to the regional economy. The commission has not yet scored its catch-all “project overview” category, but Wynn won most of the points of comparison within the review and it is clear the final grade will favor Wynn.
Mohegan Sun won the building and design evaluation, earning praise for a curved glass structure that better fits in its environment, as well as the mitigation category, which covers traffic plans and other efforts to offset the possible negative effects of a resort casino.
The company won praise Tuesday for its strategy to combat problem gambling.
Commissioners are not bound to choose the project that wins the most categories, but they are expected to give great weight to the results of their evaluations.
On Wednesday, the commission will decide on changes they want to see in each proposal and additional requirements they may place on each developer, should they be granted the license. The panel’s schedule for the rest of the week — and a final vote — is a little fuzzy.
The commission intends to give the developers some time to review their proposed conditions; the panel may be willing to give a day or two, but does not intend to drag out the deliberations for a long time.
Once the proposed conditions are settled, the board will begin its final deliberations.
Commissioner Gayle Cameron, who led the review of traffic mitigation, proposed on Tuesday that the commission impose significant requirements on Wynn Resorts to address Sullivan Square traffic.
Cameron and her team concluded that Wynn’s $6 million improvement plan for Sullivan Square would not adequately offset the resort’s traffic through the intersection.
Sullivan Square has been a traffic nightmare for years, and the City of Boston is considering a long-term fix to overhaul the roadway, which is projected to cost $100 million or more.
Wynn cannot be expected to pay the whole bill, but the company probably would contribute about 10 percent of the traffic during peak times, and should carry a proportionate part of the cost burden, Cameron said.
Cameron recommended Wynn be required to contribute 10 percent of the costs of the long-term fix at Sullivan Square, up to $20 million.
She also suggested imposing a penalty on the developer if peak traffic exceeded certain automobile counts, as a way to encourage Wynn to persuade its patrons to take public transportation.
“We’re really looking at reducing traffic through Sullivan Square,” she said.
In the economic development category, covering job creation, support for local business and how the applicant would increase regional tourism, Commissioner Bruce Stebbins found that the Wynn project would create more jobs, with significantly greater wages and benefits for construction and operation employees.
Wynn would hire 4,382 full- and part-time employees at the resort; Mohegan Sun would hire 3,172, according to Stebbins’ report.
Suffolk Downs owners have said they would keep the thoroughbred track open if Mohegan Sun wins the license, which they say would preserve several hundred jobs at the track and more jobs among breeders and farm owners. These jobs are not included in the Mohegan Sun employment figures.
Wynn has offered to give job preferences to Suffolk Downs employees who might be laid off if the track closes.