Baker administration deals blow to Wynn

Says casino operator must address more environmental issues

STATE ENVIRONMENTAL OFFICIALS dealt a major blow to the proposed Wynn Resorts casino in Everett Friday night by ordering the Las Vegas company to make another round of revisions to its environmental impact report.

Matthew Beaton, the state’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, said he was confident the “limited items” he wants addressed can be handled in a timely manner. But the fixes will delay the $1.7 billion project and not all of them will be easy to accomplish.

Two of the problems cited by Beaton would be fairly easy to address if Wynn is willing. Beaton wants Wynn to provide an annual operating subsidy for the MBTA’s Orange Line. In his letter to Wynn, Beaton did not specify an amount.

Beaton also said the T and Wynn must provide an explanation and some form of remedy for the T’s failure to comply with state law when it sold property it owns adjacent to the casino site to the Las Vegas casino operator prior to the completion of the environmental review process. Wynn intends to use the land as its entrance to the hotel/casino. As a remedy, Beaton said Wynn has suggested placing the land transfer in escrow until 60 days after the environmental review process is concluded. Wynn paid $6 million to the T for the property.

Beaton’s third area of concern will be more difficult to address. The secretary said Wynn should work with the city of Boston and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to develop long-term improvements for Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue in Charlestown. Wynn has focused on short-term improvements to divert traffic away from the square and has agreed to provide funding for long-term improvements to the area, which is plagued by bottlenecks. But Beaton appears to want a more comprehensive plan to address traffic congestion.

“The success of this effort will be dependent on the active and constructive participation by all of the participants,” Beaton wrote. “I expect that all of the parties will participate constructively; however, building consensus with parties engaged in active litigation will be a significant challenge.”

Boston, as well as Somerville and Revere, have all sued to block the awarding of a casino license to Wynn. Revere wanted the license to go to Mohegan Sun, which planned to build its casino on the Revere portion of Suffolk Downs. Somerville and Boston both felt Wynn didn’t deal with them fairly in handing out mitigation payments.

Boston, in the comments it filed with Beaton, said its plan for Sullivan Square calls for a transition to “a low-traffic, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.” The Boston letter said the Wynn casino would add traffic to the area, not decrease traffic. If decreased traffic is Boston’s goal, it’s unlikely there will be a meeting of minds with the casino operator.

In the letter from Anthony Gallagher, who works in the city’s Office of Gaming Accountability, Boston issued an ominous warning. “If necessary,” Gallagher wrote, “the city will exercise its sovereign rights to prevent its streets from being used in a manner that is incompatible with its plans and the safety of its residents.”

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Beaton did not release his decision until 7 p.m. At 8:30, Wynn issued a press release putting a positive spin on what the casino operator called a “new incremental step in the process.” Wynn said the new review will delay the opening of the hotel/casino until 2018, postpone the hiring of some 4,000 construction workers, and cost the state millions of dollars a month in tax revenue.