AS THE MASSACHUSETTS GAMING COMMISSION tries to decide whether Wynn Resorts remains suitable to retain its casino license, the two antagonists in the original battle for the license are sparring with each other again.
Mohegan Sun, which lost out to Wynn Resorts in 2015, is suing the Gaming Commission in court trying to overturn the original license award. The company is also advocating that Wynn’s license be revoked because of Steve Wynn’s sexual misconduct and the complicity of the company’s top leadership.
Cosmo Macero, who works at O’Neill and Associates, a lobbying and public relations firm retained by Mohegan Sun, has been tweeting quite regularly on the Wynn suitability issue.
On Tuesday, for example, Macero tweeted that “the company culture at @WynnLasVegas and #WynnResorts is POISON.” The same day he tweeted out a link to a press release issued by the New York City comptroller saying the city’s pension funds were joining a lawsuit alleging the Wynn board of directors was aware of Steve Wynn’s misconduct but failed to investigate or hold him accountable. “Just. Wow. When will @MassGamingComm see the writing on the wall? #WynnResorts is not suitable for a license in Massachusetts.”
And on the day when former attorney general Martha Coakley wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe suggesting Wynn is no long suitable, Macero tweeted: “The conclusion of former Mass. Attorney General @marthacoakley on #WynnResorts lands with a boom. The company is ‘not curable’ under suitability standards and should lose its @MassGamingComm license.”
Coakley, as she disclosed in the column, is a partner at Foley Hoag, the same law firm that is representing Mohegan Sun in its lawsuit against the Gaming Commission. She said in a telephone interview that her column expressed her personal opinion on the suitability of Wynn Resorts, but she acknowledged that she and the firm would both benefit if a client landed the Massachusetts license.
“That’s why I disclosed the conflict,” she said.
It’s hard to imagine the Gaming Commission would ever hand the license over to Mohegan Sun, given the lawsuit and the casino firm’s efforts to undermine another Massachusetts casino licensee. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are planning to build a casino on the Connecticut border with Massachusetts in an effort to prevent the loss of business to the MGM casino going up in Springfield.
So what’s Mohegan Sun’s endgame?
“Mohegan Sun’s endgame is the same as it was in 2015 when it first brought its lawsuit,” said Macero. “It wants its day in court to explain how the Gaming Commission demonstrated extreme favoritism towards Wynn Resorts in the licensing process, and how a different set of rules was applied to Wynn than was applied to other applicants.”
The Gaming Commission declined comment, citing the ongoing litigation. But in the twists and turns of the casino licensing process there were a number of instances where the Gaming Commission cut Mohegan Sun and its partner, Suffolk Downs, some slack. Perhaps the biggest one was allowing the casino operator to move its site for the proposed casino from the East Boston part of Suffolk Downs to the Revere section of the track when East Boston residents shot the casino down in a referendum.
Wynn Resorts, which has tried to keep a low profile during the Gaming Commission’s deliberations over the company’s continued suitability, broke its silence on the question of Mohegan Sun’s endgame. Greg John, a spokesman for the company, reiterated in a statement what Steve Wynn said in 2014 when he was trying to land the business. Wynn back then said Mohegan Sun’s goal was to protect its Connecticut casino, where the tax on table games is nothing, compared to the 25 percent tax in Massachusetts.
John said Mohegan Sun’s goal all along has been to slow down Wynn Resorts as long as it can.
“The day we open our door, Mohegan Sun and Connecticut would lose $366 million every year to Massachusetts,” he said. “That’s more than $30 million a month that they want to keep in the pocket of their Connecticut tribal casino and out of communities like Everett, Chelsea, Boston, and others across Massachusetts. With that much money and their future success at stake, it’s easy to see why Mohegan Sun would rev up their PR machine and spare no expense to try to slow our project down.”