December 27, 2013

Wynn Resorts can file final application for Boston-area casino

Massachusetts regulators find that the company is suitable to pursue a gambling license.

By Bob Salsberg
The Associated Press

BOSTON — State gambling regulators on Friday cleared Wynn Resorts to continue its pursuit of a proposed $1.2 billion resort casino outside the city.

The five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission said in a unanimous decision that Wynn had provided “convincing evidence that it meets the standards for suitability” under the panel’s guidelines for would-be casino operators.

The commission’s investigative arm had recommended that the company, run by Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, be found suitable for gambling after a lengthy background check including a review of Wynn’s operations in the Chinese territory of Macau and issues surrounding a land deal Wynn negotiated with the owners of the proposed casino site in Everett.

Friday’s ruling clears the way for the company to submit a final casino application to the commission by the Tuesday deadline, though it doesn’t guarantee the company will be awarded an operating license. It may be in competition with Mohegan Sun, which has proposed a casino on land owned by Suffolk Downs in Revere, for the sole eastern Massachusetts resort casino allowed under state law.

Wynn Resorts said it was pleased by the suitability decision and was looking forward to filing its application.

In the written decision, commissioners praised Wynn Macau for establishing policies and protocols for so-called junket operators and overall “responsible business practices” in the world’s most lucrative gambling market.

Junket operators recruit from the mainland for gambling in VIP rooms in Macau’s casinos, often providing credit to players. They have gotten the attention of regulators because of allegations of connections to organized crime.

The commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau flagged concerns about a potential hidden ownership interest in the Everett site, a former chemical plant along the Mystic River, and has turned over its findings to state and federal prosecutors.

The panel earlier in the month approved a revised real estate deal that would substantially lower the original $75 million price Wynn had agreed to pay for the land while ensuring that no one with an undisclosed interest in the property would benefit from the sale.

Investigators said there was no evidence Wynn knew of the issues before the initial land deal and worked quickly to resolve the matter once it arose.

“While it could be argued that (Wynn) did minimal due diligence on the ownership of the land when it first executed its option, it is clear that once (Wynn) was made aware of the IEB’s concerns ... it took immediate action to cure the situation,” the commissioners wrote in their decision.

Commission chairman Stephen Crosby recused himself from the land deal vote because a friend and one-time business partner is among the co-owners of the property. But Crosby participated in and signed the suitability decision and has said he plans to be involved in the eastern Massachusetts licensing process.

Mohegan Sun won a favorable suitability determination earlier this year and was given permission to submit its application on Tuesday pending approval by Revere residents in a Feb. 25 referendum. The Revere-only casino plan emerged after East Boston voters rejected an earlier proposal by Suffolk Downs for a casino on the Boston-Revere border.

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