Last Resort Wynn Puts Detour, Uncertainty in Run-up to Opening with Sale Talk

In a journey that has zero time available for a detour, Wynn Resorts seemingly got off the freeway to smell the flowers.

Just when it seemed like the road was clear for cruising into the June 23 opening – preparing the building and conducting massive, quick trainings for workers in all facets of the operation – the company announced in a joint statement that it was considering an offer from MGM International (which operates the Springfield casino) to buy Encore Boston Harbor.

It was out of the blue, and few locally were informed of the new development in the constant roller coaster ride that has been the norm with the Wynn marriage in Massachusetts.

A statement dropped on Friday last week indicated that Wynn is considering the request, and on Tuesday, a company spokesman said they are still contemplating the sale.

“Over the past several weeks, we have engaged in conversations around the potential sale of Encore Boston Harbor,” read the joint statement from Wynn and MGM – a statement that came from Wynn. “They are very preliminary and of the nature that publicly traded corporations like ours often engage in, and in fact when opportunities such as this are presented, we are required to explore. We cannot say today where these conversations will lead, however we can reaffirm our commitment to the communities where we operate today.”

The statement went on to say that Springfield (MGM) and Everett (Wynn) would not be disappointed with any outcome, and all commitments would be honored.

“The people of Springfield and Everett welcomed us into their neighborhoods,” read the statement. “We know that is a privilege and we take it seriously.  Our conversations will not impact the jobs at our facilities and will not impact the opening of Encore Boston Harbor.  Regardless of where this leads us, we will ensure that our commitments will be met, and that those who welcomed us into their communities will not be disappointed.”

The talk of a sale gets into murky, and time consuming territory.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) said it was preparing for a June 23 opening despite any talk of a sale. They said the $35 million fine for the company, the $500,000 fine for CEO Matt Maddox, and the other stipulations for training and the like continue to stand.

“The Commission’s written decision stands,” read a statement from the MGC. “The deadline for fine payment and notice of appeal is May 31. The MGC continues to focus its efforts on the significant amount of regulatory preparations required before Encore’s opening.”

The MGC also provided a list of things that would be required under law in order to sell such a property under state law – all of which add up to a lengthy process that could include the purchaser re-applying for the gaming license. At a minimum, written notice has to be given and a number of hearings and meetings must take place that look like they could take as long as six months.

Added to that is the local government’s too, and in Everett, Mayor Carlo DeMaria actually holds the keys to the sale. Everett’s Host Community Agreement (HCA) requires that the mayor of Everett give written consent to any sale from Wynn to another operator.

“I had the foresight to include section 10 in the host community agreement that states, ‘Neither Wynn nor the City shall transfer or assign its rights or obligations under this Agreement without prior written authorization of the other party,’” said the mayor on Friday night.

In the past, he has said he would not likely ever agree to release Wynn from Everett, noting that he signed up to do business with Wynn and no one else. That message seems not to have changed this week either, complicating any potential sale for the company.

DeMaria was not given advance notice of the sale discussions by either company before they became public, sources said.

Now, also at issue, is just who reached out to whom – which does matter for those in Everett and Springfield.

In the joint statement on Friday, Wynn Resorts indicated that MGM reached out to them.

However, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said MGM has told him that Wynn came looking to sell, and MGM didn’t make the first salvo.

“MGM Resorts President Bill Hornbuckle reached out to me….to indicate that Wynn Encore had reached out to MGM wanting to speak with them and again, this is all speculative,” he said. “Bill reassured me of MGM’s commitment to Springfield and that if anything was to be entertained, and/or occurred, that myself and the Mass Gaming Commission would have a big and ultimate say in what might or might not happen. The biggest take here is that Bill reassured me of their commitment to the City of Springfield and I will always continue to stand and fight for what is best for our City of Springfield. This is preliminary and conjecture at this time. We had a very good and mutually respectful conversation.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a Wynn Spokesman Michael Weaver again confirmed to the Independent that it was MGM that made the first gesture.

He also said on Tuesday nothing has changed in the matter since Friday, and the casino operations seem to be full-speed ahead for a June 23 opening date.

The entire discussion, however, harkens back to earlier discussions last year regarding a sale by Wynn to various other operators – including MGM and others. That discussion was quickly beat back and, sources have said, were manufactured to try to put pressure on regulators in Massachusetts.

That, however, has never been confirmed.

Just how much of the sale talk is inside baseball that has a purpose few will ever know, and how much of it is a real possibility, is hard to gauge at this point.

Few, it seems, know anything about what Wynn Resorts really plans to do.

More is expected on this matter, and others – including the alcohol licenses and the 4 a.m. alcohol license – at the MGC’s regular meeting today, May 22, in Boston. Though the sale talks are not on the agenda, they are expected to come up in discussions about the property.

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