What are Wynn, MGM up to?

Nobody seems to know what to make of last week’s announcement that MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts are engaged in conversations about the sale of Wynn’s Everett casino and hotel.

With just a few weeks before the $2.6 billion casino is scheduled to open and after years of endless litigation and controversy, Wynn and MGM issued a puzzling statement that made it sound as if such discussions are routine and – whatever is eventually decided – the casino will open as scheduled and all commitments will be honored.

A number of news organizations talked to gambling experts and local politicians and none of them had a clue about Wynn’s intentions, although gambling insiders suggested the corporate focus of MGM and Wynn has changed a bit over the past few years.

MGM is now more focused on best-in-class regional properties, and a Boston-area casino would fit well within its portfolio. Wynn Resorts, meanwhile, derives most of its revenue from high-rollers at casinos in Las Vegas and Asia—the Boston casino is a bit of an outlier in the company’s portfolio.

Still, the hurdles to such a sale seem insurmountable. No company in Massachusetts may hold more than one casino license, so MGM could not just buy the Wynn property – it would also have to sell its own casino in Springfield. State regulators and local officials would have veto power over any casino license transfer, and their approval seems highly unlikely at the moment.

David Katz, an equity analyst with New York-based Jefferies Group, said the situation is very unusual. “I’ve covered Wynn a very long time and they’ve never been a buyer of other properties or a seller of their own,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“Makes no sense at all,” Alan R. Woinski, a New Jersey casino consultant and president of Gaming USA, told the Boston Globe. “I don’t know why they would even entertain it.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo issued a statement noting the regulatory hurdles any license transfer would face. “I plan to closely monitor these negotiations between Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts and will work to ensure that the interests of the Commonwealth, including the host communities of Everett and Springfield, remain the focus,” he said.

The Boston Herald suggests the casino talks are the fault of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission – without ever explaining why. The news outlet quotes Greg Sullivan of the Pioneer Institute as saying Wynn’s sales discussions are the result of failed regulation.

“The commissioners are not instilling us with a lot of confidence these days,” Sullivan said. “It’s almost like Wynn treats them like minor leaguers.”

Globe columnist Joan Vennochi thinks the sales discussions were initiated by Matt Maddox, the CEO of Wynn Resorts. She thinks Maddox is mad at the way he’s been treated by the Gaming Commission and worried about the Everett casino failing to live up to financial expectations.

Vennochi’s reasoning seems sound. Maddox is mad. The Gaming Commission slapped his company with a $35 million fine and hit Maddox himself with a $500,000 fee. The commission also required Wynn Resorts to hire an executive coach for Maddox and an independent monitor selected by the agency to oversee human resource policies. Perhaps most damaging of all, the commission’s vote on Maddox’s suitability to run the Everett casino was not unanimous.

Maddox, who picked up the pieces after Steve Wynn’s sexual misconduct almost derailed the company, feels he is being scapegoated for his predecessor’s failings. He has indicated he may challenge some of the Gaming Commission’s conditions in court.

Talking with MGM resorts is a way of exploring his limited options (he has talked of a sale before, only to back off) and also a way to send a message to the Gaming Commission – look what you’re endangering here.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

A coalition of business and labor groups that struck agreement on a paid family leave program has asked for a three-month delay in the impending July 1 deadline.(State House News)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

A proposed 28-room boarding house for low income individuals stirs concerns in Amherst. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

A federal judge ruled that President Trump’s accounting firm must turn over his tax records subpoenaed by Congress. (New York Times)

Abortion opponent Andrew Bacevich says, notwithstanding legislative moves in southern states, abortion rights advocates have won the debate nationally; he only asks that they be honest in acknowledging they favor the rights of some (women) over others (fetuses) and not simply frame the issue as one of women’s autonomy. (Boston Globe)

A bill that could bring in money to help replace the aging Bourne and Sagamore bridges was reintroduced in Congress on Monday. If passed into law, the ESCAPE Act would put $1 billion per year toward bolstering infrastructure and increasing the capacity of the country’s evacuation routes. The bill is sponsored by US Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Rep. Bill Keating. (Cape Cod Times)

ELECTIONS

Labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan launches her candidacy for the Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Ed Markey. (CommonWealth)

The US Supreme Court declines to take up a challenge to Massachusetts laws that bar corporate contributions to political candidates. (CommonWealth)

A Globe editorial voices support for a proposal to introduce early voting in primary elections in the state — which often serve as the de facto election for seats.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh tells Jim Braude that he hasn’t ever had a full conversation about taxes with Gov. Charlie Baker, and he thinks three presidential candidates have the best shot at defeating President Donald Trump: Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris. (WGBH)

The 2005 debate over a bankruptcy bill between Biden, then a senator, and Warren, then a law school professor, helps define the candidacies of those two who are now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. (WBUR)

Middlesex Clerk of Courts Michael Sullivan is paying the Office of Campaign and Political Finance $4,500 after an audit found he included his son on the insurance policy for a vehicle leased by his campaign. (Lowell Sun)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Tyrek Lee Sr., the executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East who was suspended two years amidst sexual harassment charges, has been promoted into a higher position despite union officials having said he violated union policy. (Boston Globe)

At the same time that it was agreeing to pay the city $4.25 million as part of a complicated Quincy land deal, commercial real estate company FoxRock Properties is also working to lower the taxes it pays for a former hospital site where it hopes to build a massive residential project, according to city tax records. (Patriot Ledger)

EDUCATION

Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School has eliminated separate honors classes for 9th and 10th grade English and history courses and has all students in high-level classes in an effort to end de facto racial segregation in those classes. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Bloomberg Opinion’s editorial board praises New York and New Jersey for hitting the pause button on marijuana legalization, saying there are too many unanswered questions about its potentially harmful effects, particularly on long-term brain function among heavy adolescent users.

ARTS/CULTURE

A Berkshire Theater Production of Shrek: The Musical is removing the word “tranny” from the script after a parent complained and producers deemed the word insensitive. (Berkshire Eagle)

TRANSPORTATION

State officials start outlining some of the ways commuting into Boston from the west could change once work begins on the replacement of an elevated section of the Massachusetts Turnpike between Boston University and the Charles River. Fewer highway lanes and commuter rail tracks as well as construction out over the Charles River are all on the table. (CommonWealth)

Silver Line buses to the airport will start using the emergency ramp leading down to the Ted Williams Tunnel this summer, but only when traffic headed into the tunnel is traveling at less than 30 miles per hour. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A permit issued for the controversial Weymouth gas compressor station was based on incomplete data, the state is now admitting (State House News)

American eels and river herring have been noticeably missing from Cape Ann this spring, and possible explanations include that schools of fish went to a different river or were eaten by a whale. (Gloucester Daily Times)

With fewer than two weeks left until its scheduled permanent closure, Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station shut down its reactor Friday night after one of the plant’s two circulating seawater pumps was knocked offline. The reactor remained in hot shutdown Monday, at “zero” power, while operators worked on the pump system. (Cape Cod Times)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

On Monday, Supreme Judicial Court justices Kimberly Budd and David Lowy visited their alma mater, Peabody High School, where Budd was one of only a handful of black students. (Salem News)

MEDIA

Media critic Dan Kennedy reports The Boston Globe now has more digital than weekday print subscribers, which he describe as a big deal. The news was broken by the Boston Business Journal.

Kennedy separately explores The 016, a social network in Worcester that is highlighting lo local media content. (Nieman Journalism Lab)