Thursday, July 15, 2010

Casino Developer Wynn Eyes Seaport

Waterfront gambling
Casino magnate Stephen Wynn sizes up Seaport, eyes Fan Pier
By Thomas Grillo  |   Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Bay State casino game has shifted to South Boston’s waterfront as Las Vegas mogul Stephen Wynn eyes key sites for a gambling resort in one of the most prized development districts on the Eastern Seaboard.

Wynn, chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd., has hired a local lobbyist and public relations firm and raised the idea of building a Bay State casino with analysts in April.

“Our next project will undoubtedly be in China, unless we get involved in Massachusetts,” the billionaire said in the conference call with analysts.
Meanwhile, a source told the Herald that a Wynn representative has approached Joseph Fallon, owner of Fan Pier on the city’s waterfront, about the possibility of locating a resort casino in the Seaport District overlooking Boston Harbor on a portion of his spectacular 12-acre site.

The Fallon Co. broke ground in 2007 on a $3 billion neighborhood proposal spanning nine city blocks. While the first 500,000-square-foot office building is slated to open later this year, and a temporary building houses upscale retailer Louis and a restaurant, the project has stalled due to lack of tenants and financing.

Since the 1970s, Wynn has created some of the world’s most famous casinos including Bellagio, The Mirage, Treasure Island at The Mirage and the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, as well as the Atlantic City Golden Nugget and Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss. In April, Wynn opened Encore at Wynn Macau, an expansion of its existing casino with a new 414-room luxury hotel with restaurants and retail in a region of China.

While Wynn declined to comment yesterday, he is among those lobbying the Legislature to approve a measure to authorize resort-style casinos.
Development Associates LLC, a Wynn subsidiary, has paid nearly $400,000 to Boston lobbyist ML Strategies to advance the company’s interest in a casino here. In addition, Wynn has hired Howell Communications, a Boston public relations firm run by political strategist Ray Howell, to promote a bid.

Former City Councilor Michael J. McCormack, who represented Donald Trump in 1993 when the New York real estate developer sought to build a casino on Long Island in the middle of Boston Harbor, said if there’s to be a casino in Boston it should be built where people want to go. “What’s better than a casino with phenomenal views of the Boston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean?” he said. “I think it’s a fabulous location.”
Others agree. “The waterfront is a perfect location for a casino,” said Dean Stratouly, a Boston developer. “It’s close to the convention center, the airport and the downtown hotels. A casino at Seaport would bring more hotels and lots of entertainment venues.”
But Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Association, said she’s not convinced there’s enough space for a casino and all the parking required for gamblers.
Concerns about a waterfront casino and its impact on the South Boston neighborhood have already prompted an ill-fated effort to quash such a development.
State Sen. Jack Hart, a South Boston Democrat, introduced an amendment to the Senate’s casino legislation that would prohibit a casino in South Boston, the Boston neighborhood that includes the Seaport District. The measure never came to a vote because it was ruled unconstitutional, according to a spokesman for Senate President Therese Murray.
“I’m not surprised that a developer would consider the waterfront for a casino given its location next to the convention center,” said Hart. “But I think I speak for the majority of the people of the neighborhood when I say that folks would rather see a casino at Suffolk Downs.”
If Wynn secures a Boston site and the Legislature authorizes casinos, it could set up a high-stakes battle against at least two other development proposals for an Eastern Massachusetts license.
Suffolk Downs has proposed a $600 million resort casino that would feature a hotel, 5,000 slot machines, 200 table games, restaurants and shops at the 75-year-old racetrack. In Milford, David Nunes and Warner Gaming have proposed the Crossroads resort off Interstate 495. The 26-acre complex would feature a 267,000-square-foot casino, a 250-room hotel and amenities such as retail, bars and restaurants.
A law allowing casinos in Massachusetts is stuck in committee on Beacon Hill as lawmakers try to hammer out a compromise between House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, who also supports slot machines at racetracks, and Gov. Patrick, who doesn’t. Success for the gambling legislation would likely open a floodgate of bidders for lucrative Massachusetts casino licenses.

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