Wynn Resorts proposed $2 billion Everett casino has won a key environmental approval, but developers could have to shell out even more money toward relieving traffic concerns in Charlestown’s Sullivan Square due to a clause that was thrown in by the gaming commission.
Last Monday, the Section 61 findings were approved by state gaming regulators; all part of an environmental study that was conducted by several state agencies on the Wynn project. The caveat included by the board gives it the power to “adjust Wynn’s contribution” for mitigating traffic directly or for a working group focused on traffic issues, or both, according to The Boston Herald.
According to Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office, Wynn is already saddled with $36 million for traffic improvements in Sullivan Square. As early as February, the AG’s office urged state officials to increase its efforts to hold casino magnate Steve Wynn accountable for the Wynn Boston Harbor Resort, citing the lack of any “long-term” plan to help alleviate traffic concerns. The president of the Everett project, Robert DeSalvio, called the environmental study the most “thoroughly analyzed and publicly scrutinized study of any private development” in state history. He said, “With the exception of some specialized permits, every applicable state agency has now vetted and approved our mitigation commitments and cleared the way for us to begin construction.”
While the commission’s approval on Monday marked a major but expected step for Wynn, that doesn’t mean the company is going to break ground. Wynn Resorts still has another fight on its hands; Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone’s appeal of the decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection to allow Wynn a separate environmental clearance in February. Due to the appeal, the construction and all project-related hiring has been temporarily shelved by Wynn officials while they wait to see what happens with the legal battle. The appeal is scheduled for a June hearing, but Wynn Resorts hopes to break ground by July.
Meanwhile, this week, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will decide if the state’s third and final gambling license will be awarded to Neil Bluhm, a Chicago casino developer looking to build a $677 million resort at the Brockton Fairgrounds. A five-member panel began the multi-day review of the project, the only one seeking the license, on Tuesday and a vote is expected as soon as today sometime.
Questions have been raised regarding whether the competing Brockton and Taunton projects are oversaturating Massachusetts’ southeast corner with gambling. Area lawmakers have responded by calling on the gaming commission to postpone its vote on the Brockton casino. Plainridge Park in Plainville already calls the region home, as does Twin River, a full-fledged casino located in nearby Lincoln, Rhode Island. The latter is also seeking approval to open another casino along the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border.