MEDFORD (AP) — Massachusetts' casino war was re-engaged Tuesday as casino mogul Steve Wynn made a rare appearance in the Bay State to tout his $1.7 billion casino north of Boston while a Native American tribe met with state regulators on its rival development south of the city.
Wynn dismissed the Mashpee Wampanoag's planned casino as he showed off new scale models of his glitzy casino, hotel and entertainment complex along the Mystic River in Everett.
"I could care less about Taunton," he said, speaking at his company's offices in Medford. "We thrive when there's lots of activity. I'm happy to compete with any tribe and wish them all the best. "
Wynn's project — now christened Wynn Boston Harbor — had been expected to break ground this spring, but has been placed on hold indefinitely as it faces a series of legal challenges by the nearby city of Somerville.
Wynn dismissed those challenges too on Tuesday, saying he's still hoping to break ground by July 1. The casino would open after about 2½ years of construction and could approach a $2 billion price tag, he said.
"There's nothing substantive that's been raised. This is more of an irritation," Wynn said of the Somerville challenges. "The building is going to get built, give or take a month or two."
The Cape Cod-based Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, meanwhile, told the state Gaming Commission Tuesday that it's moving ahead with its First Light casino.
The tribe is promising to break ground April 5 on the $500 million project in Taunton, more than 30 miles from Boston, despite a federal lawsuit seeking to block it.
The tribe says the resort complex, which it is developing along with the Malaysia-based Genting Group, will open in phases, starting with the gambling floor and other entertainment amenities in 2017.
When complete, the tribe told commissioners, the proposed casino would include 3,000 slot machines, 40 poker tables, 150 table games, 900 hotel rooms, a spa and a water park, among other things.
Wynn, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and MGM, which is building a $950 million casino in Springfield, are racing to open the state's first Las Vegas-style resort.
Plainridge Park, a more modest slots parlor and harness racing track, opened in Plainville last summer. That facility brought in $12.6 million in gross gambling revenues in February, up slightly from $12.5 million in January, according to figures released Tuesday by state regulators.
Steve Wynn, in his roughly hourlong appearance Tuesday, saved his most pointed remarks for Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone.
He suggested the mayor fears increased competition to his city's Assembly Row development, an ever-expanding shopping, entertainment and residential complex across the river from Wynn's planned casino site.
"This isn't about competition, it's about Wynn being a responsible neighbor," Curtatone replied in a statement. "Assembly Row underwent a far more rigorous review and has done far more to provide community benefits and reduce traffic impacts."
Wynn, who met Tuesday with other area mayors and officials, said he has no plans to meet or negotiate with the Somerville mayor for additional compensation.
The company has already given the city $150,000 upfront and agreed to $650,000 annually.
But Curtatone, an anti-casino Democrat, says the Wynn development will negatively impact traffic and environmental quality in his city and has sought a $1.5 million annual payment on top of those other payments, according to a Wynn spokesman.
"We're not paying a dime," Wynn said. "We're done paying."
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