Wynn may walk if state doesn’t play ball on tax rate discrepancy

By: Bob McGovern

Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn suggested during an investor call he would walk away from his billion-dollar Everett casino proposal if the state hits him with a higher tax rate than the Mashpee Wampanoags — as is currently mandated under state agreements.

“It would be folly to have (two) casinos competing with one another where one person pays 50 (percent) more in taxes than its neighbor,” Wynn said during an earnings call Thursday. “That person would go broke, and it won’t be me, I can assure you, nor Wynn Resorts. It will not be us.”

The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe — which is seeking to build a casino in Taunton — would pay a 17 percent state tax on gambling revenue, while Wynn would have to pony up 25 percent, he told investors on the call, complaining the proximity of the two facilities would put him at a major disadvantage.

But Michael Weaver, a Las Vegas-based Wynn spokesman, said his company doesn’t expect tax disparity to be an issue down the road because the Wampanoag are “in the middle of a very complicated process right now. It just doesn’t seem like an issue.”

The tribe faces an uphill battle for federal authorities to designate its property as sovereign land on which to build the casino.

Weaver said the tax concerns aren’t Wynn’s alone.

“Regardless of who the operator is, it’s not about just us. No operator would want to be in that circumstance, and if Massachusetts wants to have best-in-class operators, they’ll probably want to take that and other issues into consideration,” he said.

Wynn’s comments came in response to a question from an investment adviser about a Herald report Thursday indicating that Wynn was angling for a tax cut to give him parity with the Mashpee Wampanoags.

The Gaming Commission, which hasn’t finished reviewing the applications, would have to go through a “very long and detailed process” before it would recommend a lower tax rate to state legislators, according to spokeswoman