By Seth Daniel
The push by Wynn Boston Harbor to include a 4 a.m. liquor license for casinos in the state budget paid off Monday when Gov. Charlie Baker signed off on a Budget that included the special license in an “Outside Area” of the budget.
Local officials responded with some concerns, including Charlestown State Rep. Dan Ryan – who said this should be the beginning of a discussion with the communities around the casino, and not a “final verdict.”
The 4 a.m. license in the budget does not yet mean Wynn is free and clear to get the extended license – which goes beyond the normal 2 a.m. closing by two hours, but requires anyone drinking in those hours to be actively playing a casino game. The budget item only allows the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) to grant such a casino license if it deems such a move appropriate.
Elaine Driscoll, spokesperson for the MGC, said they have reviewed the amended statute and would conduct a thorough public discussion if any licensee were to request the extension. To date, she said, none have.
“If a licensee makes a request to extend drinking hours pursuant to the amended statute, the commission would expect to conduct an extended public discussion on the issue and hear from a full range of constituencies, but at this time no such request has been made,” she said.
That likely won’t be for long though, as Wynn Boston Harbor has made no bones about its desire to have the extended, but restricted, liquor license.
Earlier in the spring, Wynn said it needed the extended hours to be competitive in the marketplace on the East Coast – citing that competing casinos in New Jersey and Maryland had 24-hour liquor licenses. They said they were willing to compromise so as to have a 4 a.m. closing, with the extra hours being limited only to service on the casino floor and only to patrons actively involved in playing.
“Wynn Boston Harbor will attract tourists from across the country and around the world who are expecting a late-night resort experience,” said Bob DeSalvio, president of Wynn Boston Harbor. “This legislation allows us to deliver an enjoyable stay for guests while maximizing job creation and tax revenue to the Commonwealth. It’s important to note that the extended two-hour service is limited only to patrons who are actively playing on the casino floor and will not apply to any other restaurants and lounges located in our resort, in the City of Everett or in any of our surrounding communities.”
State Rep. Dan Ryan said the inclusion in the State Budget should be an invitation for Wynn – if they apply for the extension from the MGC – to begin a discussion with the community.
“I have expressed concerns in the past as to extended alcohol service hours in general, and at gaming establishments in particular,” he said. “This section of the budget is a pro-active and necessary step for the further consideration of the extended hours discussion. This is the first step in a discussion not a final verdict.”
Ryan said he believes that, having worked in hospitality since high school, there needs to be a discussion about how to make sure the casino doesn’t become a spilling ground for everyone in Boston who wants to get a last drink.
“From a pure business point of view, my gut tells me, no world-class establishment wants to become a late night drop-in for those seeking an extended late last call,” he said. “With this in mind, should the MGC grant late night licenses, I see input from surrounding communities as vital to helping Wynn and other gaming establishments ensure that this does not happen.”
To prevent that from impacting Charlestown, Ryan said it is likely going to be necessary to consider this new development on late night liquor service in mitigation discussions – particularly around public safety and traffic control at night.
“Charlestown is surrounded by, and has been for over a century, the largest night life venues in the State,” he said. “Faneuil Hall, The Boston Garden and Hanover Street are the busiest entertainment areas of our city…I’ve always viewed the casino issue as an opportunity to broaden that discussion. I see the extended hours proposal as part of that discussion.”
Mayor Martin Walsh said that as the Everett casino is established, he will continue to keep a close eye on how it impacts the Charlestown community, including the safety and well-being of its residents.
“Mayor Walsh is focused on bringing wealth building opportunities to our neighborhoods by actively working with the Boston City Council and the Legislature to approve more than 150 new liquor licenses for the City of Boston. These additional licenses would support small businesses and add to the vibrancy of our neighborhoods, particularly in areas that need greater commercial activity.”