Boston Magazine gets only half the story

Boston Magazine’s recent story about the state’s embrace of Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts tells only half the tale.

The article by Michael Damiano seeks to portray the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and its former chairman Stephen Crosby as toadies eager to bend their own rules to land Wynn’s casino in Everett. The commission and Crosby certainly can be criticized for a number of their actions. But to conclude, as the article does, that “Wynn’s casino had nearly everything going against it – except Crosby and the MGC,” is just plain wrong.

Damiano undercuts his own argument when he paints a picture of Steve Wynn coming to Massachusetts a decade ago – before he “joined the unholy pantheon of #MeToo monsters.” Wynn, Damiano reports, took the state by storm. “Back then he was the undisputed king of casinos, the man who personally invented Las Vegas as we know it.”

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller is quoted saying the Gaming Commission fell under Wynn’s spell. “I sat in a number of those hearings when Wynn was pushing for the license and it was pretty clear to me and others that [they] were in love with the glitz and glamor of Steve Wynn,” he said.

But those hearings on an eastern Massachusetts casino license also revealed that Wynn Resorts had a better balance sheet and a better track record running casinos than its rival, the partnership of Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs. Perhaps Wynn’s biggest advantage – that the company was from Las Vegas and not from around here – wasn’t mentioned at all by Damiano.

During the hearings and in interviews with anyone who would listen, Wynn pounded away at what he viewed as Mohegan Sun’s true goal in the Massachusetts casino sweepstakes.

“The only interest of the Indians is to smother this threat to their main business, where they have billions invested,” he told CommonWealth in 2014. He noted Massachusetts was going to have a 25 percent tax on table games, while Connecticut had no tax at all. He suggested Mohegan Sun would run a mediocre casino in Massachusetts while doing everything in its power to keep the business in Connecticut as strong as possible.

Wynn, by contrast, said he would be Mohegan Sun’s worst nightmare, taking a huge amount of its business away. “To pick Mohegan Sun, if you represent the state of Massachusetts, is an act of gross irresponsibility,” Wynn said.

That was a powerful argument at a time when Massachusetts was entering a New England casino market dominated by Connecticut’s two giants, Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods. The Gaming Commission faced a tough choice: Go with the entrenched operator from next door, or bring in a Las Vegas developer with a track record for betting big, competing hard, and growing the market.

There were a lot of question marks about the Wynn proposal, particularly in regard to the traffic it would generate, but the overall logic of bringing in a big-time gamer from another part of the country made sense in an era of casino wars among states. Keep in mind how Mohegan Sun responded when the MGM casino started going up in Springfield; Mohegan Sun sought and won permission from the Connecticut legislature to join forces with Foxwoods to open a quickie casino just across the border from Massachusetts to protect the Connecticut casino revenues.

Damiano suggests the commission was biased in favor of Wynn, but then why did it do so many favors for Suffolk Downs? The casino proposal at the horse track, which straddles Revere and East Boston, was dealt a seemingly fatal blow in November 2013 when East Boston residents voted to reject it. But instead of letting the will of the voters prevail, the Gaming Commission allowed the developers to reconfigure their plans so the casino would be located on the Revere portion of the track. That decision angered East Boston residents, who saw it as a violation of state law, but it rescued the Suffolk Downs casino project and kept a Wynn competitor alive.

The Gaming Commission made much the same point, along with many others, in a detailed rebuttal that described the Boston Magazine article as “remarkable for its exclusions, misrepresentations, and innuendo.” The magazine ran a little blurb about the Gaming Commission’s complaints – which were dismissed as a “curiously defensive rebuttal” – but chose not to link to them or even mention them on the online version of the story.

Crosby has retired amid more allegations of bias and now the remaining members of the Gaming Commission find themselves trying to decide whether Wynn Resorts, in the wake of the serious allegations of sexual misconduct against Steve Wynn, remains suitable to hold on to its casino license. The company has tried to distance itself from its founder. Steve Wynn is gone, and so is his name at the top of the casino under construction in Everett. The company’s powerful legal counsel and most members of the board have also moved on.

Practically, it makes no sense to yank the license on a $2.5 billion project and the thousands of jobs it will create. Philosophically, however, it’s a very tough decision. While everyone awaits the commission’s ruling, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi says she thinks it’s a safe bet that Wynn Resorts will retain the license.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Despite a Massachusetts Lottery policy designed to crack down on repeat winners, the winners keep on winning  — a lot. (WBUR)

Gov. Charlie Baker punts on the question of whether the fired head of the Massachusetts Environmental Police, James McGinn, a former State Police sergeant who formerly served as Baker’s campaign driver, should lose his state pension. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Columbia Gas may not meet the November 19 deadline it set for restoration of service to customers in the Merrimack Valley. (Boston Globe)

Framingham officials have decided to postpone until at least next spring reinstalling parking meters downtown that were scheduled to be in place by the end of the year after a three-year absence while they review a proposed rate hike and other new regulations. (MetroWest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Pipe bombs were sent to several critics of President Trump and others vilified by the right, including Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, billionaire George Soros, actor Robert De Niro, and the New York offices of CNN. (New York Times) Trump, who whips up his followers in rallies and on Twitter, blamed the media for inciting the attacks. (Washington Post)

Retired Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the high court, announced she is withdrawing from public life after being diagnosed with dementia. (Washington Post)

An analysis by the Pew Research Center says young adults are better at distinguishing facts from opinions than people over 50. (U.S. News & World Report)

President Trump refuses to part with his iPhones when calling old friends despite urging from aides and intelligence sources who warn him the unsecured calls are picked up and monitored by Chinese and Russian spies. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jay Gonzalez makes the case for his proposed university endowment tax. (Boston Globe) Meanwhile, Republican incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker has rarely had to fend off charges that he broke his no-new-taxes pledge because Gonzalez sees little gain in faulting him for moving closer to the Democratic nominee’s push for more revenue. (Boston Globe) Taxes may be the biggest difference between the two candidates. (WBUR)

Though lots of big-name Democrats and unions are backing Question 1, heavyweight PR firm Dewey Square Group, run by veteran Democratic operatives, has raked in more than $1 million in charges as it flaks for the campaign to defeat the nurse staffing requirements, which is being bankrolled by hospitals. (Boston Herald)

Transgender TV star Laverne Cox was in Boston to speak on behalf of the yes on Question 3 campaign to preserve the state’s transgender rights law. She said a yes vote would send a message to the nation. (State House News)

Independent Suffolk DA candidate Michael Maloney slams Democratic nominee Rachael Rollins for saying she won’t prosecute a list of 15 minor offenses. (Boston Herald.

A Lowell Sun editorial blasts a group of conservative Republicans for urging voters to blank Charlie Baker and the race for governor on Election Day.

Democratic attorney general Maura Healey and her Republican challenger, Jay McMahon, tangle in a debate at UMass Boston. (Boston Globe)

Joseph Schneider, who is challenging US Rep. Seth Moulton, accused the congressman of ducking debates and being “politically scared.” (Salem News)

The Globe endorses Secretary of State Bill Galvin over his Republican challenger, Anthony Amore. The Globe also endorses a yes vote on Question 2, which would establish a state commission to study ways to amend the US Constitution to overturn the Citizens United campaign finance ruling. CommonWealth’s Codcast had representatives from both sides of the debate earlier this week.

What would qualify as a stunning upset in next month’s elections? A win by a Native American Democratic woman in the race for governor in ultra-red Idaho. It looks unlikely, but not entirely impossible as Paulette Jordan wows crowds with a rock-star aura on the campaign trail. (Huffington Post)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

National Grid and its 1,200 locked-out steelworkers are doing most of their negotiating away from the negotiating table. (CommonWealth)

The stock market continued its downward spiral, losing all the gains the markets have made this year. (Wall Street Journal)

A new report from the International Monetary Fund says three countries — the United States, followed by Japan and then China — owe the largest share of global debt. (U.S. News & World Report)

EDUCATION

The Wayland School Committee is set to vote on a proposal that would push back start times for middle and high school students while moving up elementary school openings by an hour, triggering opposition form some parents and the teachers’ union. (MetroWest Daily News)

Lowell schools superintendent Salah Khelfaoui indicated he plans to sue the city for wrongful termination. (Lowell Sun)

TRANSPORTATION

Politico profiles the millenials of TransitMatters and says they are redefining citizen engagement. Sounds very similar to a Conversation CommonWealth did a year ago with three of those millenials that was headlined “The shadow transit agency.”

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

State health officials have opened a push to get uninsured residents to sign up for health care when open enrollment begins November 1.They are making a concerted effort on the Cape, which has the highest rate of uninsured because of seasonal employment and the transient population. (Cape Cod Times)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

A marijuana advocate accuses cities and towns of engaging in bribery and extortion in striking deals with would-be applicants for local license approvals. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Two of the state’s top judges warned against legislative reprisals for unpopular decisions or mistakes by judges, saying some of the attacks are eroding the judiciary’s independence. (State House News Service)

An 18-year veteran of the Pittsfield police force is under criminal investigation for allowing his service revolver to be used by a woman with what appears to be a self-inflicted gun wound. (Berkshire Eagle)

A state audit said the Norfolk District Attorney’s office failed to use its own data to determine if a diversion program for first-time offenders is successful. (Patriot Ledger)

MEDIA

John C. Burke, a longtime Boston Globe editor, mentor to countless young journalists, and steady hand at the helm in the paper’s newsroom, died Monday at age 88.