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Gaming Guru

Chris Sieroty
 

Wynn Resorts finances lobbying effort for Massachusetts casino

14 June 2013

By Chris Sieroty

With just more than a week before a crucial referendum on a Wynn Resorts, Limited project, a group of volunteers and business owners are going door-to-door in a small Massachusetts town lobbying for the gaming company’s planned $1.2 billion casino-resort.

The pro-Wynn group, Everett United, is made up of dozens of volunteers, with its campaign largely financed by Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts.

“Please join us. We are not asking for money,” the group assures visitors on its website. “We need your support.”

The binding referendum on approving the project is June 22.

“Wynn Resorts financially supports Everett United and its hundreds of volunteers committed to bringing our development to Everett,” Michael Weaver, a Wynn Resorts spokesman, said in a statement. “They are a dedicated group and we are grateful for their enthusiasm and support.”

Besides its website, everettunited.com, the coalition is also using social media. As of Wednesday, Everett United’s Facebook page had 2,963 likes. The city has 42,101 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

To oversee Everett United’s efforts, Wynn Resorts hired ML Strategies LLC, a Boston-based lobbying firm run by Stephen Tocco. Tocco’s son, John, has also been hired to serve as Wynn Resorts representative to Everett.

“One thing became apparent early on, both politicians and the community were really enthusiastic about the project,” Stephen Tocco said. “If we win by a significant margin, it will make a huge impact on the gaming commission.”

Wynn Resorts did not disclose how much it spent to support the campaign. The gaming company will disclose campaign spending in a mandatory filing next week, Weaver said.

Marlene Zizza, owner of Marji’s Florist and an Everett United volunteer, was immediately supportive of the project named Wynn Everett.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for our community,” Zizza said in a phone interview. “We have a blighted and toxic piece of property that needs to be cleaned up. This project will do that. Beyond that, if they get the license, it brings a huge amount of money into our community.”

Wynn Resorts faces stiff competition for the only gaming license in Boston from Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston, which has partnered with Caesars Entertainment Corp. A third competitor is Cross Roads Resort in Milford, Mass., which is working with Las Vegas-based Warner Gaming.

Wynn Resorts proposes to build its resort on a 40-acre parcel that was the site of a Monsanto Chemical plant. Massachusetts gaming officials are expected to issue the first casino licenses early next year.

Before gaming officials can consider Wynn Resorts license application, Everett residents must approve the proposal. If the referendum fails, Wynn Resorts will be forced to abandon its plans for Everett.

“We’ve really done a lot to support the project,” Zizza said. “We’ve made phone calls and gone door-knocking in our community. It’s really about reaching out to the community and giving them the information they need to make an informed decision.”

Zizza called Wynn Everett a “once in a lifetime opportunity for this community.”

This is the second casino Wynn Resorts has proposed to build in Massachusetts.

In May 2012, Wynn Resorts pulled out of a deal with The Kraft Group, owner of the New England Patriots, which would have built a $1 billion casino-resort next to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

Wynn Resorts decision to pull out was make in the wake of the election of two anti-gambling candidates to the town council in December 2011.