Walsh takes pass on $150m Wynn offer

Company president met with mayor on Sullivan Square

THE NO. 2 OFFICIAL AT WYNN RESORTS last week offered Boston Mayor Marty Walsh a financial blueprint for fixing Sullivan Square in Charlestown, but Walsh turned him away.

Sources say Matthew Maddox, the president of Wynn Resorts, flew in from Las Vegas and met with Walsh at City Hall last Thursday morning. The high-level meeting indicates the two feuding sides are still talking, but it appears they are making little progress in resolving their differences, in part because Walsh’s long-term agenda is unclear.

Boston is suing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, trying to overturn its decision last September to award a license to Wynn to open a $1.7 billion casino in Everett. The mayor feels Boston should be designated a host community to the casino and Charlestown residents should be given the chance to vote on whether they want it. In the meantime, Walsh has barred his aides from attending meetings with Wynn and state transportation officials on Sullivan Square traffic issues. Those meetings and Boston cooperation on traffic issues were recommended by the Baker administration as part of its review of Wynn’s request for an environmental permit needed to build the casino.

Aside from the issues raised in Boston’s lawsuit, Walsh and his aides have offered or hinted at several other explanations for the impasse with Wynn. Aides say the mayor, despite voting for casinos as a state legislator, no longer wants a casino in Greater Boston. The mayor at times has also criticized Wynn for failing to offer the city sufficient money to offset the impact of a casino, while at other times has said the dispute is not about money. “It’s about respect for the people of Boston,” he said in May.

The meeting last Thursday between Maddox and Walsh focused primarily on a comment Walsh made June 8 during a call-in segment on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio show. A listener from Charlestown asked about rising traffic levels in Boston, and host Jim Braude followed up by asking Walsh somewhat sarcastically if the proposed Wynn casino would help ease traffic in Sullivan Square. Walsh responded: “If they pay for the Sullivan Square renovation, $150 million and we’ll be all set.”

Sources say Wynn officials based in Boston seized on the $150 million estimate in a June 10 meeting with Walsh and suggested they might be able to find the money. Maddox followed up on that issue in last week’s meeting, outlining specifically where the money would come from.  He identified $11.5 million in federal funds already available for the project and $35.9 million already committed by Wynn.  The remaining balance of $103 million would come from casino taxes directed to two funds controlled by state transportation officials. Wynn officials say their casino is expected to pump $43 million a year into the two funds.

Michael Weaver, the senior vice president of marketing and communications at Wynn, issued a statement confirming the Wynn funding plan. The statement said the funds identified by the Las Vegas company are “more than enough to cover the city’s estimated $150 million estimate. Thus far, our offer to the city has been refused.”

Sources familiar with the Walsh-Maddox meeting said the mayor indicated to Maddox that a good starting point for negotiations would be Wynn agreeing to provide the same level of financial support to Boston that Mohegan Sun offered with its proposal for a casino in Revere at Suffolk Downs. Mohegan Sun agreed to finance road and infrastructure improvements in the area and pay Boston $18 million a year, a deal Walsh has described as an “unbelievable contract” on Boston Herald Radio. Maddox reportedly was cool to matching the Mohegan Sun offer.

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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.

Walsh’s press spokeswoman, Bonnie McGilpin, confirmed the meeting with Wynn officials last Thursday but declined to comment further.  “Due to the ongoing litigation, we cannot provide additional details,” she said.

Weaver, in his statement, said the company is ready to meet with city officials at any time. “This is a time for meaningful, solution-oriented discussion, not political grandstanding,” the statement said. “A new Sullivan Square, a cleaner Mystic River, and thousands of jobs depend on the city agreeing to work cooperatively with us.”