Pair makes push for casino in Lynn

May 19, 2012
By Jeff McMenemy/The Daily Item

Two local businesspeople are reaching out to casino developer Steve Wynn in an attempt to get him to consider developing a casino on the Lynn waterfront.

Wynn recently dropped his plans to build one in Foxborough after realizing public sentiment there was against it.

Patricia Keefe, a Lynn resident and former tourism development official for the city of San Diego, along with longtime Lynn business owner David Zeller have reached out to Wynn, and are working to establish a "Wynn in Lynn" task force and build grassroots support to locate a casino on the 305 undeveloped acres on Lynn's waterfront.

"Recognizing that we've been trying to develop the waterfront, and there's zoning but no vision, we believe a plan for a destination-style casino on the waterfront would interest Mr. Wynn," Keefe said during an interview Friday.

She noted the waterfront offers not only access by road, but also by the commuter ferry that's being developed, and would be a good location for smaller cruise ships to bring tourists in, like the ones that operate in Portland, Maine.

"This is a developer who was very willing to invest $1 billion for an upscale casino in Foxborough," Keefe said. "He's shown he's willing to spend the money."

She also believes Lynn residents would welcome a casino, where Foxborough residents opposed it.

"We think they'll be a groundswell of support," she said.

Zeller also pointed to Lynn's proximity to Boston, New Hampshire, Vermont and Logan Airport, and stressed that they weren't trying to compete with city or economic development officials to develop the waterfront.

"The Wynn in Lynn task force wants the same thing that they want, that's economic development for Lynn," Zeller said. "There's not one way to reach that goal."

Both Keefe and Zeller acknowledged they have clashed with city and development officials at times in the past.

Keefe said the location of a Wynn casino on Lynn's waterfront would "be a tremendous economic boost to the city."

"That's why we want to do this," she said.

In addition to creating jobs for area residents, it would also dramatically increase tax revenues, which in turn could lower property taxes, increase property values and allow city officials to invest in public education.

"Lynn needs a miracle and this could be it," Keefe said.

Keefe said she's sent emails to Wynn representatives and have received acknowledgments that they've been received, but no more than that.

"We are simply trying right now," she said.

Keefe also said she's reached out to two of the main property owners on the waterfront, Ken Carpi and Patrick McGrath, and representatives for them said they'd be willing to listen to any casino proposals.

McGrath did not return repeated phone calls this week.

Leslie Gould, executive director of the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, commended the pair for "their entrepreneurial spirit to think about Lynn in a big, big way."

She noted the chamber has been supporting the location of a casino at Suffolk Downs, while saying any idea should be considered.

"There's no harm in putting every idea on the table," she said. "People have had crazier ideas and have become extremely successful ......In business, you have to be open to all opportunities."

But Ward 5 City Councilor Brendan Crighton, who is also the chief of staff for state Sen. Thomas McGee, D-Lynn, doesn't believe Lynn has a good chance of locating a casino on its waterfront.

" I don't think the idea of putting a casino on the waterfront in Lynn is realistic," Crighton said Friday.

He noted the owners of Suffolk Downs, the race track located in Revere and East Boston, are far along in their efforts to build a casino there.

"It seems likely that Suffolk Downs would have the strongest chance at this point," he said.

He also noted he'd prefer to stick to the plan for a mixed-use development for Lynn's waterfront, even though there is no such plan in place, or even being proposed yet.

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano said Thursday he hadn't heard details about any plan to either reach out to Wynn or other casino operators, but thinks it would be an exciting move for the Lynn waterfront.

"I think it would be cool, of course, how could you not be for it?" he said. "There'd be all kinds of issues to deal with like parking and traffic, but those are the kinds of issues I don't mind dealing with."

But Capano noted one of the larger land owners on the waterfront is Joe O'Donnell, who is also one of the primary owners of Suffolk Downs, according to a press release announcing the racetrack's partnership with Caesar's Entertainment.

"I don't know, but I don't see him getting involved with anything else that would compete with Suffolk Downs," Capano said.

Still, Capano said he wouldn't want to discourage the group from reaching out to Wynn.

"Let them reach out," Capano said. "If you're asking about a billion dollar investment in the city, I'm not going to say no."

James Cowdell, the Executive Director of Lynn's Economic Development and Industrial Corporation, said this week he has heard "rumblings" about a proposal to reach out to Wynn or his staff.

"I think that it's an attractive space and it would be a huge increase in tax revenue for the city, as well as making our waterfront a destination attraction," Cowdell said about the proposal.

Still, he noted, "If it were to go there, there'd have to be major investment by the developer."

He also said O'Donnell's role in development of the waterfront could hurt any plans for a casino, because of his interests in Suffolk Downs.

But he added, "I think we would be silly not to look at it. If you talk about a multimillion development, think about the impact that would have for the current residents. It would have a dramatic positive impact on your taxes."

Jamie Marsh, Director of Community Development for the city of Lynn, said he liked the idea, while stressing there would be a host of transportation issues to solve before it could become reality.

"Putting aside the debate on the social aspects of it, from a strict economic standpoint, if you could snap your fingers and put a casino there with all the transportation amenities ... I think it would be great."

Marsh also pointed to O'Donnell's ownership stake in Suffolk Downs, but still noted that a casino plan "is going to come to fruition someplace, and I'd be lying to you if I said I haven't' thought about it. Why not here on our waterfront?"

A spokesperson for Wynn Investor Relations could not be reached for comment by press time.

Anyone interested in working with Keefe and Zeller can email them at



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