On Wynn Casino and the Redevelopment Authority

April 30, 2014
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On the front page of today’s newspaper is the story that Wynn Resort officials have reached an agreement with several of the surrounding communities.  The fact that this is now done, shows that Wynn Resorts is now dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s.  All these contracts with the surrounding communities except Boston demonstrates to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) that Wynn is in the final stretch in complying with all of the MGC rules.

The other crucial issue is the Everett Council’s action Monday night.  By a 10-1 vote, they approved an urban renewal plan that would also include the area that the casino would be sited.   There seems to be a two-fold impetus for this action by Mayor Carlo DeMaria.

The first is to rejuvenate an area that has for the most part remained a blighted former industrial wasteland .

The second reason rests with the casino.

The MGC has raised issues about who may have an ownership share in the site that Wynn Resorts want to build on.  DeMaria wants to have the Redevelopment Authority take the land and then sell it to Wynn.

Our question is: Does this pass the sniff taste?

At first blush it is only reshuffling the deck.

The reason that Councillor Michael Marchese was the sole vote against the proposal is that he feared that if Wynn is not approved than the taxpayers of Everett would be left with this former industrial site that does have environmental issues.  Marchese  also questions the value of the land that is assessed at $9 million dollars but city officials estimate that it is worth $35 million.

Having property being listed for less than what market rates are is common in city assessments .  Many homeowners know that the value of their home is not what the house is assessed for but is usually greater.

However, the rub comes in what is this property worth.  It is not a standard two-family in a certain neighborhood but a unique parcel.  Could it be worth $35 million – maybe or maybe not?

DeMaria told the Councillors that he will have two appraisals on the purchase price of any land before the City buys any parcel in the renewal district.

In normal cases, this would be adequate.  But this is not a normal case.

If DeMaria’s goal is to buy the land that the casino would be sited, then two appraisals are not enough.

For better or worse, the land that Wynn wants to buy has become legally tainted to the MGC. A solution might be to have four or five appraisals from all types of appraisers.  This would give a really true value.

We do not doubt that the land for Wynn Resort was bought by present investors in the midst of the economic recession of  2007-2011 and was underpriced by today’s value. How much did it increase over what was paid in the depths of the recession we do not know..

Wynn Resorts has been above board and gone through extensive background checks to be in contention for a casino license. We might add that other casino operators have been disqualified by this process.

The City of Everett needs to be just as above board with no lingering questions from anyone on the value of the land.  Otherwise, we can predict with almost near certainty that we will not get the casino.