Jobs, local aid set to flow from Everett casino

Marcony Almeida

The Encore Boston Harbor Casino in Everett seen from Assembly Row in Somerville. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

With Wynn Resorts seemingly on track to open its $2.6 billion Everett resort casino next month as planned, state budget writers who have built next year’s spending plan on the assumption of about $100 million in revenue from the casino can breathe a sigh of relief.

According to the State House News Service, the Gaming Commission decided that Wynn Resorts — despite the “considerable shortcomings” of its current chief executive, and past “significant” and “repetitive” failures related to sexual misconduct allegations against founder Steve Wynn — can keep its casino license if it pays a $35 million fine and adheres to other conditions.

Aside from Wynn Resorts appealing the commission’s ruling in court and the standard steps a casino operator must take, commission chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said Wednesday there is nothing she knows of that would prevent Encore Boston Harbor from opening on June 23 as the company has said it plans to do.

Local officials, whose communities stand to benefit financially from the Wynn Resorts development, cheered the commission’s decision and said they look forward to seeing the promise of jobs and revenue become a reality. Gov. Charlie Baker and the House of Representatives each produced budgets with the assumption of a total of $98 million in gaming revenue from Encore Boston Harbor next fiscal year.

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, who was a staunch supporter of Wynn Resorts throughout the commission’s investigation and hearing process, said in a statement Tuesday night that the commission was transparent, fair and led a comprehensive review of the licensee.

“I know 5,000 people who can’t wait to get to work, and with this resolution, they now can,” the mayor said. “Here in Everett, we are counting down the days to June 23rd — the opening of the Encore resort and with it, the culmination of the largest single-phase private development in the history of the Commonwealth. This is truly a great day for the people of Everett.”

Rep. Joe McGonagle from Everett said he is thankful for and respects the commission’s “thoughtful and exhaustive” decision to allow Wynn Resorts to keep the license for the Everett casino.

“With this decision, over 5,000 people can now focus on getting to work and we can move forward with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue,” he said in a statement posted to social media Wednesday. “The people in Everett are looking forward to the Encore’s opening on June 23rd — full steam ahead!”

Sen. Sal DiDomenico, who represents Everett in the Senate, was not immediately available to comment.

Local officials and state lawmakers from the surrounding area have good reason to celebrate the expected opening of Encore Boston Harbor. In addition to about $100 million in annual revenue to the state, the casino is expected to pay $25.3 million each year to Everett, $2 million to Boston each year, $1 million each to Malden and Medford annually, and lesser amounts to Chelsea, Somerville and Cambridge.

At the commission’s adjudicatory hearing in early April, Encore Boston Harbor officials said the company has already paid Everett $30 million, has spent about $50 million on roadwork surrounding the casino site, and has extended more than 3,000 job offers as it works to fill roughly 5,500 jobs at the resort.

“The Baker-Polito Administration respects the Commission’s decision and expects gaming regulators to stringently enforce the conditions placed on the company,” Baker spokesman Brendan Moss said in an email Tuesday evening.

Senate President Karen Spilka said she is glad the commission’s “lengthy process” reached a resolution.

“The most important outcome going forward is to ensure that the state gaming industry be held to the highest standards of creating and maintaining a workplace free from all harassment,” the Senate president said.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s office did not respond to a News Service request for comment on the commission’s decision.

In a report published Wednesday, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation said the state is “essentially on pace” to collect its anticipated $138 million in gaming revenue this fiscal year and can expect to collect $294 million in fiscal year 2020, which will begin about a week after Encore Boston Harbor’s anticipated opening date.

More than a third of that revenue — $107 million in fiscal 2020 — will go to cities and towns as local aid. Gaming revenue will account for nine percent of all unrestricted local aid, MTF said.

Based on the allocation of gaming revenue in the 2011 expanded gaming law, MTF estimated that $32 million in FY20 will flow to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, $30 million to education funding, $21 million will be provided for economic development purposes, $10 million will be awarded for local capital projects, $22 million will be deposited into the state’s rainy day fund, another $22 million will be put towards debt and long-term liability reduction, and $11 million will go towards public health and gambling addiction services.

The organization said fiscal 2020 is likely to be “the first year in which the promise of legalized gaming is realized in terms of tax revenue to the Commonwealth,” but suggested that state lawmakers might want to reconsider how that money is spent.

“Given the time that has passed since the enactment of the gaming law and the considerable amount of money at stake, it may be time for a fresh look at the allocation of gaming revenue in the Commonwealth’s budget,” MTF wrote in its analysis. “Further, as the call for more revenue grows on Beacon Hill, reviewing the uses of existing revenue sources, like gaming revenue, is an important initial step and a worthwhile effort that may improve the fiscal health and long-term wellbeing of the Commonwealth.”

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