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November 23, 2014

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Wynn makes pitch for $1.2 billion casino outside Boston

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Wynn Resorts / AP

This artist’s rendering released Wednesday, March 27, 2013, by Wynn Resorts shows a proposed resort casino on the banks of the Mystic River in Everett, Mass.

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 | 3:45 p.m.

BOSTON — The two companies competing for the coveted license to operate the only resort casino in greater Boston delivered high-powered presentations to the state gambling commission on Wednesday, with both promising to be the superior choice to create jobs, generate tax revenue and attract tourists from around the world.

Mohegan Sun has applied to build a casino on land owned by Suffolk Downs in Revere, pending a Feb. 25 referendum, while Las Vegas casino operator Steve Wynn has proposed a casino along the Mystic River in Everett. Both locations lie just outside the city of Boston.

"We have the 'wow' that this market wants and what Massachusetts deserves," said Mitchell Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, during a 90-minute presentation that included charts, videos and architectural models.

Wynn, by contrast, offered a less glitzy and largely unscripted presentation that lasted less than one hour.

"I'm being hard-nosed today because today is not about theater, today is about how we get a destination resort up and running in Massachusetts," said Wynn, who openly mocked the Mohegan Sun proposal as a three-star resort compared to what he said would be a five-star operation if his company wins the license.

Wynn said the hotel rooms in the Everett resort would be nearly twice as large and far more luxurious that the competing proposal. He also sharply criticized Mohegan Sun's architect for a low-rise, "horizontal" design, as opposed to the 19-story high-rise tower he has proposed, saying a "vertical" development is more user friendly for guests — making it easier, for example, for room service to deliver hot breakfasts.

A spokesman for Mohegan Sun later said its primary hotel would be a four-star operation, while another, smaller hotel would be three-star.

Mohegan Sun's Revere-only plan emerged after an earlier proposal by Suffolk Downs, a 78-year-old thoroughbred racetrack, to develop a casino on the Boston-Revere border was rejected last November by voters in the East Boston neighborhood.

Etess acknowledged that the last few months had been a "whirlwind" for the company, which formed a partnership with Suffolk Downs after a failed attempt to develop a casino in the western Massachusetts town of Palmer.

Etess said that while Mohegan Sun has expanded its reach — opening the first casino in Pennsylvania under that state's gambling law — its roots were in the region where it opened its first facility in Connecticut 17 years ago.

"We have old-fashioned New England know-how and New England values," he said.

The Revere casino would be easily accessible by several major highways, public transportation and nearby Logan International Airport, Etess said. He also called the site "clean," an apparent reference to pollution at the former chemical plant where Wynn hopes to build, and predicted that the Mohegan Sun' casino could be up and running six months sooner than Wynn's and generate more annual tax revenue for Massachusetts.

Wynn, who has promised to pay for the cleanup of the Everett site, said his company would be the "worst nightmare" for Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, Connecticut's other casino operator, because it would siphon off revenue from table games that are not taxed in Connecticut.

"If Wynn Resorts is selected, we have only one interest, this casino in Massachusetts," Wynn said. We don't give a damn about Connecticut."

The meeting room at the Boston convention center was crowded with supporters of the two projects, including Suffolk Downs workers who stood and cheered loudly when Mohegan Sun officials repeated a promise to preserve racing at Suffolk Downs, which would operate as a separate entity from the casino.

MGM Resorts International, which has proposed a resort casino in downtown Springfield, was scheduled to make a presentation to the commission on Thursday. MGM is the only remaining applicant for the western Massachusetts casino license.

The panel has set a tentative date of May 30 for awarding the regional licenses.

Check back for more on this developing story.

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