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Wynn bankrolls casino push in Everett

June 19, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — Las Vegas casino operator Steve Wynn is bankrolling an effort to convince Everett voters to support a proposed casino in the city, while nothing has been spent in opposition to the plan, according to campaign finance records.

A referendum is scheduled for Saturday on a host community agreement Wynn signed with city officials that calls for $30 million in advance payments to Everett and more than $25 million in annual payments if the casino was to open for business.

Supporters and critics of the plan say they anticipate voter approval of the agreement, marking a key step forward for Wynn in a casino selection process that will ultimately be decided by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Wynn has proposed a $1.2 billion casino on a 37-acre site along the Mystic River that once housed a chemical plant.

In a report posted by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, the pro-casino group Everett United, which is pushing for a yes vote on the referendum, reported $85,455 in contributions through June 4, all but $455 of which had come from Wynn Resorts. The group reported about $25,000 in expenditures through that date.

The group additionally received more than $150,000 “in-kind” contributions from Wynn Resorts for specific purposes, largely consulting services, according to the report.

In a separate report, a subsidiary called Wynn MA, LLC, reported about $230,000 in expenditures or liabilities related to the ballot question.

There is no law preventing corporations from spending on municipal referenda in Massachusetts.

Casino supporters have not purchased any radio or television ads, focusing instead on neighborhood canvassing and meetings with small groups of residents to explain the casino plan, said Sandy Guliano, president of Everett United.

“The community has really embraced the project,” she said.

Wynn’s willingness to clean up the polluted site, formerly home to the Monsanto Chemical Co., was a key in convincing her and other residents to support the project, Guliano said, though she still had some concerns about traffic management.

The host community agreement would be both “fair and generous” to the city, she said.

While some in the city remain opposed to the casino, no organized group has formed to push for a no vote on Saturday’s referendum.

“I’m kind of heartbroken by the whole thing,” said Evmorphia Stratis, a local artist who has emerged as an unofficial spokeswoman against the casino.

Stratis said the plan, which is backed by Mayor Carlo DeMaria and other key city officials, was pushed through so quickly that opponents did not have time to organize against it.

Traffic is already a “nightmare,” in the area, Stratis said, and she also worries about gambling addiction and the casino becoming a magnet for drugs, alcohol and prostitution.

Michael Weaver, a senior vice president for Wynn Resorts, said Wynn had directly communicated with Everett residents through a series of letters. He said the company was optimistic about the referendum.

Wynn unveiled the Everett plan after abandoning an earlier effort to develop a casino on land owned by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in Foxborough.

Approval of a host community agreement by voters is a requirement for developers seeking a regional casino license. The Wynn plan faces competition for the sole eastern Massachusetts license from Suffolk Downs in Boston and Foxwoods Resorts, which is backing a proposed casino in Milford.

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