Decision Time

If the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is to be believed, the commission will vote this week whether to award the casino gaming license for the Greater Boston area either to Wynn Resorts in Everett or to Suffolk Downs in Revere.

We have covered this story for more than eight years — reporting on the pros and cons of a major hotel casino at Suffolk Downs. The ancient Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” comes to mind when we consider the long and torturous path toward the possibility of a casino at Suffolk Downs that began with a small step almost eight years ago.

However, there is one fact that never has changed in all of these eight years and that is simply that a large majority of voters of Revere want the casino at Suffolk Downs.

Although the casino was rejected by East Boston voters last year, Revere residents have remained steadfast in their support for a casino, approving the plan not once but twice at the ballot box, with even greater support the second time around.

Casino pundits point out that the era of the big hotel-casino is waning and that the New England market is over-saturated.  Others point out the social problems that a casino would bring.  And still others point out that the casino question will be voted on statewide in November.  We have discussed these issues before in our editorials, so we are not going to rehash these same issues again, other than to say that we are firm in our support of a casino in Revere because we believe it will be a boon that will offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that truly will be transformative in the history of our city.

Although the casino will be easily accessible by public transportation via the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s Suffolk Down’s subway station (which will be just a five-minute walk to the casino), the necessary infrastructure improvements will bring much-needed upgrades to the surrounding roadways.

In addition, we would note that although Revere stands to gain immensely in terms of the revenue to be generated by the mitigation agreement with the casino developers, the neighboring communities of Winthrop, Chelsea, and Boston, who will be severely impacted by the casino, also support the proposal. By contrast, we would note that on Monday night residents from Charlestown who will be severely impacted by the proposed casino in Everett held a protest against the Wynn casino plan for that city.

In addition to all of the positives to a casino that have been pointed out by us and others, there lies one fundamental business fact that cannot be overstated:  A large part of any business’s success lies with its founder and the culture that is created by the founder. We have seen that most recently in the case of DeMoulas Market Basket, where the popular and long-time CEO, Arthur T. DeMoulas, was removed as the day-to-day man in charge of a business that was one of the most successful supermarket chains in the region. Only his buying back the remaining stock of the entire company probably saved the franchise from collapse.

At Wynn Resorts, there is Steve Wynn,  who is described as the soul and embodiment of Wynn Resorts.  Our question is: What happens when Steve Wynn is no longer at the helm?  Who will take over and will that person be able to brand the product as successfully as Steve Wynn has done for these many years?

Mohegan Sun does not have this issue inasmuch as the casino franchise is run by a chosen board of elders from the Indian Tribe whose view is to live by the ethics that have  been developed over the hundreds of years’ lifespan of the Mohegan Tribe. In our view, this is a critical issue before the Mass. Gaming Commission.  What will happen to the license after  a Steve Wynn or a Mitchell Estes is no longer there?  Will the casino to which the MGC awards the license today be that same type entity in five years or 10 years?

In the case of Mohegan Sun, we know the answer will be yes.  In the case of Wynn Resorts, we just do not know. Is that a bet that the MGC is willing to take?

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