Adelson sets sights on Massachusetts

Jul 10, 2007 5:41 AM

By GT STAFF

Casino mega moguls Steve Wynn and Kirk Kerkorian understandably garner most of the headlines relating to the gaming industry in the U.S.

But Sheldon Adelson’s name should be at the top of any discussion of American gaming tycoons.

In addition to building a casino empire that stretches from Las Vegas to Macau, Adelson has arisen as the world’s third richest man, according to Forbes magazine.

And last week it was learned that Adelson personally held discussions with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s administration about building a Las Vegas-like casino near Boston.

Adelson, who in the past has expressed interest in building a resort casino west of Boston near Interstate 495, is now focusing his attention on the Marlboro area, according to published reports.

A native of Dorchester and resident of Newton, Adelson reportedly met with Patrick’s economic development secretary about the state’s pending decision whether to legalize casino gambling.

Kofi Jones, spokeswoman for Housing and Economic Development and Housing Secretary Daniel O’Connell said the meeting between Adelson and O’Connell last May was requested by Adelson.

"He came in and offered his ideas on how the commonwealth could benefit from expanded gambling," Jones said. "He addressed some of the economic impacts associated with the gaming industry. We met with him as we have met with people on all sides of the issue and continue to."

Adelson, whose newly unveiled $2.2 billion Venetian Macau will feature 20,000 luxury hotel rooms, is interested in building a multi-billion dollar, full-scale casino resort, one with everything from hotels and restaurants to spacious gambling facilities.

The gambling magnate said that such a casino, placed near Interstate 495, would be best poised to draw the widest possible customer base from across New England, including gamblers who now travel to Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, executives familiar with his thinking said.

Back in 2002, Adelson told a panel of state lawmakers he was prepared to build a $1.5 billion resort casino. At that time, he mentioned an abandoned racetrack in Westboro as an ideal location.

Such intimate knowledge of the landscape may seem surprising, but the casino tycoon is no stranger to the area. The son of a Dorchester taxicab driver, Adelson sold newspapers on the street corner to bring in extra money.

Today he sits atop a $26 billion fortune, one of the world’s largest.

Adelson’s pitch comes as the gambling issue gains momentum in the state capitol.

State Treasurer Tim Cahill has proposed selling off one or more casino licenses to private casino developers.

Meanwhile, the newly recognized Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is pursuing its own plans to build a $1 billion casino in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Since the tribe gained official recognition in February, they have said they plan to build a casino, possibly at a site in Middleboro, also off Interstate 495.

Owners of Suffolk Downs racetrack have also reported they are working with another private casino developer that has casinos in Florida, to develop a proposal for a resort casino at the Boston race track.

Gov. Patrick is currently studying the question of whether to strike an agreement with either of the tribes to allow a casino, and whether other private casino developers should be allowed to build casinos. Patrick has said he will decide whether to allow casinos and how many, later this summer.