Steve Wynn courts the press in Medford
Plays tour guide, calls Curtatone an irritant, and sounds presidential
STEVE WYNN CAME TO MEDFORD on Tuesday. The 74-year-old Las Vegas casino developer is walking with a cane and his already poor eyesight appears to be getting worse, but he remains as entertaining as ever, offering a detailed, guided tour of a scale model of his newly named Wynn Boston Harbor hotel and casino, dismissing Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone as an “irritant,” and criticizing the Republican and Democratic presidential contenders for failing to address the country’s deficit.
Wynn said he expected to beat back Curtatone’s appeal of an environmental permit award and break ground on the hotel/casino in Everett by July 1, but that’s probably being optimistic given that a hearing on the appeal isn’t scheduled until the beginning of June. Still, Wynn seems to be putting Curtatone in the rear view mirror, but not without first taking a few shots at him.
Wynn said he didn’t know why the mayor of Somerville was fighting him on the environmental permit, but suspected Curtatone was worried that the high standards of mitigation Wynn Resorts is being held to on its project will be applied to Somerville’s massive development next door in Assembly Square. “If someone had a hemorrhoid, we had to mitigate it,” Wynn said. When no one in the press laughed, he quickly added: “That’s a joke.”
When it was pointed out that Curtatone is worried about all the traffic the casino will attract and the impact of that traffic on air quality, Wynn dismissed those concerns by sticking out his tongue and making a raspberry sound. “Air quality? What air quality?” he asked. “We’re mitigating the traffic. He’s never lifted a finger to mitigate the traffic.”
Despite his snarky comments, Wynn said the infighting with his neighbors will soon be over. “We’ll be fine with Somerville,” he promised. “We’ll be a good neighbor.”
Wynn met on Tuesday with mayors and municipal officials from nearby communities, including Boston, to brief them on his project. He said he has spent $300 million so far on his hotel/casino and hasn’t officially broken ground yet. He also increased his estimate of the total cost of the project from $1.7 billion to $2 billion. “It’s expensive coming to Boston,” he said.
Wynn began his hour-long press conference by walking the press through a scale model of the project, which features hotel rooms that he said will be the “fanciest” in the country outside of Las Vegas. He said the rooms will be 630 square feet in size, which he said is the equivalent of a suite in most hotels. He described the two-story lobby with its floral motif and design that will lead to two promenades featuring restaurants, retailers, and convention space.
A pair of bowed elevators, with a $28.2 million Popeye sculpture by artist Jeff Koons in the middle, will lead to the second floor. The two-story casino will be behind closed doors, which Wynn said is fine with him. He said he hopes the hotel, the restaurants, the stores, and all the other offerings will attract people who never venture into the casino.
“This is a place for fun and excitement,” he said.
Wynn said his Everett development will transform a polluted stretch of land along the Mystic River into a destination resort attracting visitors from all over the world. He predicted it will also lead to other improvements in the heavily industrial area, which includes a power plant. “Maybe someday the world’s greatest par three golf course will be here,” he said.
Wynn isn’t worried about other casinos opening in Massachusetts before he does. He described the situation in Massachusetts as a monopoly compared to the heavy competition his resorts face in Las Vegas and Macau. He was dismissive of the Plainville gambling palace as “a box of slots” and said he “could care less about Taunton,” a reference to the proposed casino of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.
As the press conference dragged on, Wynn said in response to a question that he might some day get an apartment in the area. “But I don’t go anywhere unless I can take my dogs,” he said, referring to his two German Shepherds. An avid art collector of paintings by Picasso and Matisse, Wynn said he would take advantage of Boston’s art scene.
“This is a dream place for anyone who loves the arts. Intellectually, this is a dreamy place,” he said. “Go see Isabel’s museum. Go see the paintings. Oh wow! The idea that I could participate in the texture, the fabric of Boston would be a proud thing for my mother and father if they were alive.”
Finally, there was the inevitable question about his fellow casino operator Donald Trump and the presidential campaign. Wynn said he knew Trump from Atlantic City and knew all of his three wives.
“Donald’s an entertaining, lively personality,” Wynn said, describing the Republican as an “edgy, sharp guy in the real estate business.”
While the New York Times has described Wynn as a supporter of Trump, Wynn said he hasn’t endorsed any of the candidates, although he made clear the Republicans have a superior philosophy on business and the economy.
But Wynn faulted all of the candidates for ducking on what they would do about the deficit. He said any presidential candidate should know how many employees are working in the government, how many agencies there are, how big the nation’s debt is, and what the interest rate on that debt is.
“The deficit is destroying the living standard of working people in America. Nothing is more simple, less complicated,” he said. “Do you hear that in the public discourse today?”Wynn then proceeded to rattle off all of the information about employees, agencies, and interest rates off the top of his head. It wasn’t immediately clear if all the numbers were accurate, but the level of detail was impressive.
“I’m waiting for one of these six people to show me or to convince me that if I vote for them that my employees and the rest of us will have a better life,” he said. “I haven’t heard that yet.”