Steve Wynn was in Boston for the first time since winning the Greater Boston casino license last Thursday evening when he was the surprise keynote speaker at a New England real estate conference in the Seaport District, deciding against revealing his new casino design renderings and instead elaborating on his upbringing in the Boston area and taking a few shots at Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.
Wynn was jetted into town to speak at 5:30 p.m. at the Collier’s International ‘Trends in New England Real Estate’ conference. It was widely believed that he would unveil select pictures from the new design of the Wynn Everett casino project – renderings that have been anticipated for several months.
However, unexpectedly and without explanation, he seemed to change his mind – perhaps due to the late hour and the subdued mood of the crowd. The renderings will, however, be unveiled for the first time publicly at the Jan. 22 Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) meeting around 11 a.m.
At the outset of Wynn’s speech last Thursday, Wynn went through the hurdles that had to be jumped to get a license – including filing an 1,800-pound application. He circled all of that back to getting sued by Boston Mayor Walsh – though Walsh is officially suing the MGC.
“We are going to be one of the top five primary employers in the history of Massachusetts,” Wynn told the crowd. “That will be 10,000 to 15,000 direct and indirect jobs. It’s $100 million for everyone the day we open. You look for some acknowledgement. I don’t expect a parade, but maybe a fruit basket. The mayor is suing us though because it’s not enough, but we did get a police escort – to the courthouse. Maybe a fruit basket would be nice.”
The fruit basket comment elicited laughs and was lighthearted, as was the rest of the address, but there were some serious comments towards the end directed at Mayor Walsh – including the fact that for every month delay, the entire region will pay a great sum.
“I hope the mayor doesn’t slow us down; it’s a $100 million benefit to everyone the day we open,” Wynn said.
Wynn said he jumped at the opportunity to speak to the conference, headed up by John Hynes of Colliers, due to the fact that he is now part of the Greater Boston conversation when it comes to development.
That train of thought led him into an extensive family history of how his family originally came from Revere and he grew up at 11 Dana St. in Revere before his father had to move to Connecticut during World War II.
He recalled how his father was raised by a foster family in Revere after his mother died and his father, a vaudeville actor, surrendered him so that he could remain performing on the road.
“He was a sign painter in Revere, and he learned really quickly during the Depression that a painter could make $128 a week working for Coca-Cola,” he said. “That was an enormous amount of money then. To earn that money, a painter had to be able to paint the Coca-Cola logo freehand. His name was Jacob Weinberg and in those days Coke was very anti-Semitic. He would have never gotten the job with that name. So, he hijacked the name of a popular comedian – Ed Wynn. He put his name on the application as ‘Mike Wynn.’ He got the job.”
He also waxed on living in Revere along with his Aunt Betty and Uncle Hyman – frolicking on Revere Beach and its amusements and playing stickball in the streets.
“Imagine what it would be like if my mother and father – these poor Revere people – and my Aunt Betty and Uncle Hyman, can you imagine if they knew little Stevie was going to build the first grand hotel in a city like Boston?” he asked. “The kid playing stickball on Dana Street is going to build a $1.9 billion hotel in Boston. Imagine that?…The idea of doing it in Revere or Chelsea or, as it turns out, in Everett would be so unbelievable to anyone in my family. I can’t help but dwell on this marvelous trick of fate.”
He also talked about the overwhelming approval he has gotten in Everett, citing the 86 percent ‘yes’ vote he got in the referendum.
“There was a poll taken in Everett about the Red Sox and the team got a 70 percent approval rating,” he said. “We had a vote for a casino in Everett and got 86 percent. We outpolled the Red Sox. We’re going to bring more people to Boston than the Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox combined. Like I said, a fruit basket would have been nice.”
Wynn did unveil some details about the contents of the new design renderings that had only been reported previously in the Boston Globe. He said he would have two grand escalators in the front lobby that – instead of curving outward, would curve inward.
The smallest room, he said, would be 630 sq. ft. with bathrooms that are 160 sq. ft.
“We’ll have two indoor gardens in the lobby,” he said. “In one – a carousel with horses going round and round and calliope music playing. The other there would be a Ferris wheel going round and round. Both would be made 100 percent with flowers…In the center of it all would be the Popeye sculpture – spinach and all. Behind it would be the elevators.”
A serious question posed was whether or not a Wynn Everett casino can survive in what has been termed a “saturated” northeastern gaming market.
He said – as he has said many times before – that it will be the non-casino amenities that will bring people to his casino, not the casino itself.
“No building I’ve ever built, except in Macau, has gaming revenues that are more than half of the total revenues,” he said. “Non-casino revenues are bigger than casino revenues. Nobody cares about slot machines. They come for the experience of living large and living fantastic and at a certain point in the trip, they decide to try lady luck at a casino game…It’s the non-casino stuff that gets people on airplanes and allows them to put up with body searches and things like that.
“My company has made its living in highly competitive, saturated markets,” he continued. “We do well…This monopoly thing here with one gaming operation in Greater Boston – that’s all new to me. I’ve never been alone. This is a first thing and I’m only 73 years old.”