opinion | Charles H. Yelen

Involve casino mogul Steve Wynn in Olympics bid

Globe file photo

Boston’s pursuit of the 2024 Olympics and the establishment of a casino in eastern Massachusetts are on separate tracks, and separately they have received substantial media coverage. But these tracks can converge, and with deliciously intriguing potential.

The operative word is potential; it’s imperative that a casino-Olympics intersection be skillfully conceived and managed. If so, it may turn out that winning the jackpot and winning the gold are two sides of the same coin.

Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts maneuvered masterfully through an arduous bureaucratic thicket to be selected to build a casino in Everett. The daunting process could easily have vanquished the faint of heart but Wynn and his team made all the right moves and commitments. Now that the casino bill repeal effort has been defeated Wynn has achieved complete victory.


The next step will be for Wynn to make good on his promises. That means creating thousands of jobs, generating sweeping economic development, and being an exemplary corporate citizen. He’ll look for ways to accomplish all this stylishly and consistent with the needs of the region.

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Although the Boston-area casino will be in Everett, Wynn recognizes the importance of the city of Boston to the success of his venture; a prime goal of his is to establish an enduring bond with the city and Mayor Marty Walsh. No doubt, Wynn also wants the same with Governor-elect Charlie Baker. And that brings us to the Olympics.

An elite team of civic leaders under the banner of Boston 2024 Partnership is laser-focused on landing the 2024 Summer Olympics in Boston. This is a sharp, well-heeled operation and there is no need to mince words: If they succeed, they will be bringing the biggest event to Boston — ever. It will draw the most visitors, garner the most attention and — if organized properly — have a beneficial impact on the city long into the future.

This January, the US Olympic Committee will decide whether Boston will represent the US before the International Olympic Committee. Then, sometime in 2017, that entity will select the winning host city for 2024. The Partnership has to be searching for every possible advantage; Steve Wynn can provide a decisive edge.

Wynn has deep resources. Specifically, at the heart of Wynn’s proposal to Massachusetts is his commitment to derive a large share of the casino’s revenue from wealthy international visitors. He has done just that at his other properties by exercising an ultra-muscular international marketing apparatus. Putting a harness on this marketing dynamo so it benefits both the casino and the Olympics should be high on the agenda of everyone who cares about bringing the Olympics to Boston. It would add sterling luster to our bid.


And Wynn should find this arrangement especially attractive. That’s because raising the profile of Boston to wealthy communities around the world for the Olympics is also a direct way to draw the same people here to visit the new casino. The two goals are in harmony.

But creating this relationship and managing it adroitly is going to be key. The US Olympic Committee will want to see bids that purr with competence, and it will take a deft touch to ensure the city and state along with the Boston 2024 Partnership and Wynn are completely aligned.

Both Walsh and Baker recognize the galvanizing potential of the Olympics, but they cannot allow the Olympics to distract them from also pursuing their other important priorities. To that end they must tap a trusted adviser as point-person for this project — perhaps they can even appoint the same person. Ideally, it is someone as comfortable moving through the halls of corporate power as he/she is operating amidst the array of public agencies that will need to be coordinated for the effort, someone who Walsh and Baker know can sweat the details.

Boston is in an exciting period of re-invention. Determining the best role for Steve Wynn has to be part of the process, and pursuit of the Olympics is exactly the right vehicle for maximizing Wynn’s strengths. Getting Wynn into the game the right way is critical; it would literally be like winning the gold.

Charles H. Yelen is former deputy executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority.