Wynn antes up $1m to fight ballot question

Breaking down big donors to ballot campaigns

Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn isn’t someone you’d call wishy-washy, but lately he’s been changing his mind a lot.

He reluctantly agreed to redesign his proposed Everett casino hotel after Massachusetts officials insisted the initial design didn’t measure up. Then he agreed to up his traffic mitigation efforts after state officials said he didn’t have enough skin in the game. And now Wynn has donated more than $1 million to the group opposing casino repeal after previously saying he would stay out of the ballot fight.

In an interview in Las Vegas with CommonWealth last spring, Wynn said he didn’t think it was his place to sway a state’s voters one way or another on gambling. “When states have ballot measures, my take on this, after having had this job for 40-odd years, is that it’s inappropriate for us to work it,” he said. As recently as May, Wynn’s position hadn’t changed.

But now, after having won the Greater Boston casino license, Wynn is working it. State campaign finance reports indicate Wynn Resorts gave $1 million to the group opposing casino repeal on October 7 to go along with $3.3 million donated by MGM Resorts International, which wants to build a casino in Springfield, and $3.25 million from Penn National Gaming, which is building a slots parlor in Plainville. All told, the Vote No committee has raised $7.56 million.

The group pushing for Question 3, which would repeal the state’s casino law, has raised just over $600,000. The group’s biggest donors are Alan Lewis ($235,000), the chief executive of Grand Circle Travel; philanthropist and former cable television executive Amos Hostetter Jr. ($55,000); and Linda Sallop, the CEO of Atlantic Charter Insurance ($45,000).

All four questions on the November ballot are lopsided contests financially. Here’s a breakdown of the major donors on each side.

Question 1 would repeal the law indexing the gas tax to inflation. The Vote No campaign has raised nearly $1.7 million, far more than the $91,000 raised by the Vote Yes group.

The big supporters of gas tax indexing are the Construction Industries of Massachusetts Advancement Fund of Framingham ($200,000), Suffolk Construction ($100,000), the Utility Contractors Association of New England ($100,000), the Massachusetts Aggregate and Asphalt Pavement Association ($100,000), and Hostetter ($90,000).

The biggest donor to the Vote Yes campaign is the Liberty Initiative Fund of Woodbridge, Virginia, a group whose stated goal is to hold government accountable, fight crony capitalism, and protect individual liberties.

Question 2 would expand the reach of the bottle deposit law to noncarbonated beverage containers other than wine and milk. The Vote No group has raised nearly $8.8 million, while the Vote Yes side has raised just over $1 million.

The biggest supporters of the Vote Yes campaign are the Massachusetts Sierra Club ($493,000) and the Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund ($365,000).

The Vote No campaign has received $6.3 million from the American Beverage Association and $300,000 from Stop & Shop Cos. of Quincy.

Question 4 would require employers to provide paid sick time to employees. The Vote Yes campaign has raised nearly $889,000 compared to just $42,500 for the Vote No group.

Meet the Author

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.

The big donors to the Vote Yes campaign are various groups affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (more than $500,000 in total), the Massachusetts Teachers Association ($100,000), and former Hill Holliday exec Jack Connors ($10,000).

The Vote No side received $35,000 from the National Restaurant Association.