By BOB SALSBERG, Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) _ An overflow crowd packed the Boston convention center on Wednesday to hear Mohegan Sun and Wynn Resorts make high-powered pitches to the state commission that is expected to decide later this year which firm wins the coveted resort casino license for the greater Boston region.
Mohegan Sun, the first applicant to present, has proposed a $1.3 billion casino on land owned by Suffolk Downs in Revere, pending the results of a Feb. 25 referendum in the city.
The Revere-only plan emerged after an earlier proposal by Suffolk Downs, a 78-year-old thoroughbred racetrack, to develop a casino on the Boston-Revere border was rejected last November by voters in the East Boston neighborhood.
Mitchell Etess, chief executive of Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, acknowledged that the last few months had been a “whirlwind” for the company, which formed a partnership with Suffolk Downs after a failed attempt to develop a casino in the western Massachusetts town of Palmer.
Etess told the five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission that while the company has expanded its reach– opening the first casino in Pennsylvania under that state’s gambling law– its roots were in the region where it opened its first facility in Connecticut 17 years ago.
“We have old-fashioned New England know-how and New England values,” Etess said. “We are already part of the community and have been for years.”
The pitch appeared to be an effort to distinguish Mohegan Sun from Wynn, a company operated by Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, which has proposed a $1.2 billion casino on the banks of the Mystic River in Everett.
Wynn officials were scheduled to make their 90-minute presentation to the panel later Wednesday. The state’s 2011 gambling law allows for three regional resort casinos in Massachusetts.
Etess said the Revere casino would be easily accessible by several major highways, public transportation and nearby Logan International Airport.
Eugene Kohn, the architect for the plan, stressed what he called a “horizontal” design that would include two low-rise hotels, one facing Suffolk Downs and the other historic Revere Beach, along with the casino, retail space and entertainment facilities.
The meeting room was filled beyond capacity, including Suffolk Downs workers who stood and cheered loudly when officials repeated a promise to preserve racing at Suffolk Downs, which would operate as a separate entity from the casino.
MGM Resorts International, which has proposed an $800 million resort casino in downtown Springfield, was scheduled to make a presentation to the commission on Thursday. MGM is the only remaining applicant for the western Massachusetts casino license.
The panel has set a tentative date of May 30 for awarding the regional licenses.
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