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November 1, 2014

Greater Boston Entertains Three Offers for Casino Resort


The Boston area can legally license only one casino resort, and as of May 2013, three large companies are vying for that privilege. The three companies are all giants in the gambling industry:Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, and Connecticut-based Foxwoods. Each has proposed a different casino plan and location within the Boston area. The decision as to which company gets the license will be a difficult one, but the Massachusetts Gambling Commission is expected to choose a winner by early 2014.

The three competing companies each have their own vision of a Boston casino resort. Caesars Entertainment wants to partner with racetrack Suffolk Downs for a deluxe horse racing/casino facility. Steve Wynn has sketched plans to open a lush, nature-themed casino on the Mystic River in Everett. Connecticut's Foxwoods Resort Casino would like to expand its thriving business from Ledyard, Conn. to Massachusetts.

Caesars Entertainment and Suffolk Downs in East Boston

Caesars Entertainment (logo)Caesars Entertainment, in partnership with Suffolk Downs, has proposed the construction of a $1 billion casino resort connected to the racetrack in East Boston. Suffolk Downs, built in 1935, prides itself on a rich history which includes the career of the Hollywood-famed thoroughbred, Seabiscuit. A support group called "Friends of Suffolk Downs" hopes to see the track grow into luxury resort with 300-450 guest rooms, almost 20 restaurants, and over 200,000 feet of gambling space. The proposed resort would offer up to 5,000 slot machines and 200 table games, over 20,000 feet of retail space, and ample parking for visitors.

If the plan is a go, the Caesars/Suffolk Downs group has promised jobs numbering in the thousands for Boston residents. Perks of working for the facility would include comprehensive health benefits, handsome bonuses, and a 401K.

A 440-person Boston Globe poll in the spring of 2013 found that 25 percent of residents strongly support the development of the resort while 19 percent favor it with moderate enthusiasm. 37 percent of pollsters indicated they were against the development, with the majority of this percentage describing their opposition as "strong."

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino supports the Suffolk Downs plan and, in fact, turned down an offer from gambling industry king Steve Wynn for a similar development.

Wynn Proposes Riverfront Casino Resort in Everett

Wynn Resorts (logo)Gambling industry mogul Wynn hopes to plant his newest facility in the town of Everett, Mass. along the Mystic River. After being turned down by Mayor Menino on his initial Boston proposal, Wynn proposed the construction of a resort in Foxborough. When that fell through, he turned his attention to the small town of Everett, where he has been met with ecstatic support and the promise of a June referendum.

Wynn has wooed Everett citizens with promises of a $30 million injection into the city's landscaping, beautification of Everett's mundane riverfront, and a massive revenue boost to the 41,000-person town. The proposed resort, tentatively called the “Wynn Everett,” would support the Everett community and schools with millions in tax revenue, according to the Wynn Everett website. At a cost of $1.2 billion, the project has been greeted with wild enthusiasm from Everett residents. This may be due, in part, to the fact that Wynn sells his idea as not just a casino, but also a destination resort that would lure in gamblers and non-gamblers alike.

Wynn boasts an impressive resume which has scored him significant points with Everett citizens. As a young man, he began his entrepreneurial career at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. Later, he expanded that business to Atlantic City, where it thrived. In 1986, Wynn breathed life into the world-famous Mirage, one of America's first glamorous casino resorts. On the heels of the Mirage's success, Wynn invested in Treasure Island, home of the first Las Vegas-based Cirque du Soleil. He then moved on to his next project, the trend-setting Bellagio luxury resort. Wynn's signature resort, the Wynn Las Vegas, rose out of the ashes of Las Vegas' former Desert Inn in the early 2000s. China-based Wynn Macau opened in 2006. Since that time, Wynn Resorts have continued to flourish in America and abroad.

Connecticut-Based Foxwoods Eyes Milford Area

Foxwoods Casino Resort in Ledyard, Conn., announced plans in late spring 2013 for the construction of a deluxe casino resort in Milford, Mass. Perhaps inspired by Wynn's promise of a nature-centered resort, Foxwoods has proposed a 187-acre space with much open land and an authentic, old New England atmosphere.

Advocates of the Foxwoods casino resort say the $1 billion venture would create 3,500 jobs and bring Milford $20 million per year in tax revenue. The proposal package includes the building of a new highway interchange for easy customer access and the relocation of power lines to more effectively service the area. Opponents of the project say that Milford, a suburb, is not an ideal location for such a large gambling facility. They would prefer to see this massive construction project happen elsewhere.

Foxwoods Resort Casino (logo)

"Foxwoods Massachusetts," as it has been coined, would house almost 5,000 slot machines, 125 table games, and 350 guest rooms. An undisclosed number of restaurants would service the resort. The Foxwoods in Ledyard is much larger than this proposed facility, covering almost 5,000,000 sq ft and sporting six casinos. In fact, the Foxwoods Connecticut facility is the second largest gambling resort in the U.S.

Who Will Win?

The race to the Boston casino finish line will be an interesting one. At the moment, Wynn appears to have the lead with his impressive resume and promises of aesthetic and economic improvements to the small town of Everett. Some Bostonians support the evolution of Suffolk Downs, but skeptics overshadow the potential success of that racetrack's transformation. Foxwoods is the newest contender, coming to the table in recent months with a plan that has received mixed reviews. Much like a tight horse race, the outcome is still unclear. Perhaps an underdog will surge ahead at the last minute. Perhaps Wynn, the projected victor, will claim the prize. Only time will tell which contender will eventually claim Boston's coveted casino license.


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