Wynn Boston Harbor ‘At Risk’
Although the $2.4 billion Wynn Boston Harbor continues to rise towards its planned mid-2019 opening, it does so under an “at risk basis,” according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. While that sword hangs over the project’s neck the commission’s investigators continue their months long investigation to find out whether Wynn Resorts was in on the effort to hide the sexual harassment charges against Steve Wynn and the payments he made as a result. Wynn has publicly denied all of the charges made against him, saying, “The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.”
It makes a difference whether it was Wynn only who kept that secret, or whether the company that bears his name colluded to keep the commission from finding out when it was deciding what company to award a gaming license to for the Boston metro gaming zone.
Meanwhile, now that Wynn has resigned and has sold off all his stock interests, the company is trying to move forward. Although few think the casino won’t be completed, there is a definite possibility it could be finished by another developer and the almost certainty that it won’t be called Wynn Boston Harbor when it opens for business.
The company continues to operate two prime properties in Las Vegas and three in Macau.
Regarding the ultimate fate of the casino last week Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby stated, “I have said repeatedly that for now we must proceed with the Everett project as planned and be thoughtfully mindful of the thousands of people whose jobs may be affected by this issue and of the long-term economic benefits envisioned by this project, but as a practical matter… Wynn Resorts proceeds with this project on an at-risk basis.”
The casino is more than half completed. While the company could operate the high-rise hotel and convention center without the casino license, it wouldn’t be a fully completed resort. In that event Wynn would probably sell the building—possibly at a loss— and property to another casino company that would be able to get the commission’s approval.
Meanwhile, the company is moving towards changing the casino’s name. Last week the casino’s President Robert DeSalvio told the commission “We are absolutely considering a re-branding of the project, and we’ll have an announcement on that at a later date. It’s under active consideration right now.”
Last week the commission held one of its regular quarterly reviews of the project’s construction. Commissioner Edward Bedrosian reminded those present that giving this a pass wasn’t the same thing as a “prejudgment” on the investigation, which he said he expects to conclude by the summer.
That investigation was sparked by a Wall Street Journal report in January that said many Wynn employees had spoken of “behavior that cumulatively would amount to a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn.” One accusation was that in 2005 Wynn forced a manicurist to have sex with him and later paid her a $7.5 million settlement.
In a follow up story last week, the Journal reported that high ups in the company “enabled” Wynn’s activities.
DeSalvio told the panel that the project is on schedule for a June 2019 opening but that it needs financing. That may not have been helped by Crosby’s “on an at-risk basis,” comments.
One of the possible branding names under consideration may be a variation on “Encore,” a company that is also owned by the Wynn company.
On the question of whether high ups in the company knew about Wynn’s sexual accusations, Wynn’s ex-wife Elaine Wynn told a court hearing last week that in 2009 she had given the Wynn Resorts general counsel information about the rape accusation. The attorney denies this. Investigators for the commission attended the hearing.
There have been repeated public calls for removing the Wynn name from the company, including an opinion piece published by Attorney General Maura Healey and a public statement by Governor Charlie Baker.
MGM Resorts International is pulling out all the stops in its efforts to fill positions in advance of the September opening of its $960 million MGM Springfield. Last week the developer posted more than a thousand job openings on its website.
The casino developer has committed to hiring more than a third of the workforce from Springfield. This could make a dent in the city’s 6.6 percent unemployment, which compares to 4 percent for the state.
Most of the listings are in food and beverage, such as cooks and servers, cooks and chefs, bartenders, waiters, hosts, managers, kitchen staff and a banquet manager. But there is a “wide range” of jobs available, according to vice president of human resources Marikate Murren, including locksmiths, carpenters and painters. Needing employees are the hotel, restaurants, a bowling alley, cinema, spa and retail shops. Most of the jobs are fulltime. Most of them will be union-friendly. The average annual salary for the jobs is $40,000.
Last week MGM held an open house where potential workers met representatives of the restaurants and other vendors who will be selling food and beverages at the casino such as Cal Mare restaurant, Chandler Steakhouse, TAP Sports Bar and the South End Market, which is sort of a large food court. That included Anthony Caratozzolo, vice president of food and beverage for MGM Springfield, and executive chef Nate Waugaman.
MGM spokesman Saverio Mancini told the Republican, “There was a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of excitement. People are eager and looking forward to the job opportunities. People can’t wait to apply and we’re excited for them.”
One of the more public hires has been veteran Springfield police officer Sgt. John Delaney, who was once an undercover drug cop and now, after 35 years on the force, will be a top security executive in the casino’s. He started on April 2.
On the day of his retirement Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno proclaimed “Sgt. John Delaney Day.” The retired cop served from the age of 19 in 1980 to the present. He told an assembled crowd, “I wanted to be a cop ever since I was 11 years old. I never wanted to be anything else.”
Some of his career was high profile and was chronicled in the Springfield Daily News. Others was under the radar as an undercover detective living among the lowlifes. Working under eight chiefs and commissioners, eventually Delaney earned titles like “Hometown Hero,” from the American Red Cross and “Friendliest Cop” from the local newspaper. He eventually became an executive aide and spokesman for one commissioner who had once been his partner until a few years ago when the commissioner retired.
The casino project in the city’s South End will cover three city blocks, including 2 million square feet of new construction mixed with restoring and renovating historic structures or parts of structures.
It will offer 125,000 SF of gaming space, a 250-room hotel, cinema, bowling alley, dining and retail.
None of the hiring that MGM does is haphazard. Before MGM was awarded the license to build in Springfield it analyzed the labor market to determine where it would hire the 3,000 workers it would need.
It noted, for instance that the area has a higher than normal percentage of single parents and people with criminal records. In response MGM included a day care center in the resort and asked lawmakers to amend the law that authorized gaming in the state to make it easier to hire ex-cons. As result many classes of jobs were exempted from the ban on former offenders being hired by casinos. It also started a school for poker and blackjack dealers because the area had few who had experience in that line of work.
MGM also sent recruiters to area senior centers, veterans clubs, vocational schools and even churches to drum up interest. They even studied unemployment data and layoffs to find potential recruits.
One of the primary reasons the city got behind the MGM casino was to revive a city that had been badly mauled by a 2011 tornado and a long decline in manufacturing.
That’s a cause MGM President Michael Mathis can get behind. Last week at the Massachusetts Casino Career Training Institute gaming school, which is on the ninth floor of MGM Springfield’s administrative offices, Mathis declared, “We’re looking for a renaissance.”
He watched while students who ranged in age from early 20s to 70s, learned how to deal blackjack. One of them, a 71-year old Springfield resident born and raised, says he always wanted to work in a casino. He told the Boston Globe, “I have a knee issue. But . . . you can just put that aside, take a couple of Tylenol, and we’re all set to go.”
The school is a collaborative effort between MGM and two area community colleges and helps address the casino’s need for 450 table game dealers and 100 poker dealers. One of the colleges also opened a culinary school to address the shortage of cooks in the area after MGM gave it a $500,000 grant.
The casino has been conducting classes for dealers since February. Even so, the school is operating at half capacity. The school’s director told the Boston Globe that this might be because of the “novelty” of the jobs, the fear of math-related jobs and anxiety about background checks. Also, it costs $400 a week to attend, although those who ultimately are hired will be reimbursed.
To further address the cost factor MGM is working with local agencies, such as the New England Farm Works Council, to obtain scholarships for those who can’t afford classes.
Blackjack class takes 160 hours to complete.
Besides learning about such things as where to keep your hands to avoid looking suspicious, students also learn how to develop a friendly “gift for gab” and keep the players entertained.
Says one trainer, “We only want you to be cordial, have fun and enjoy yourselves with the customers. In return, we want that return business. There’s a lot of places people can go. They want to go somewhere where they can enjoy themselves, have fun and become part of the family.”
Good dealers can make two or three times their hourly pay in tips.