The Encore Boston Harbor casino project into its final year of construction. However, the battle over the deal for the Everett land where construction continues is far from over.
Just last month, the former part-owner of the land on the Mystic River sold to Wynn Resorts for the project filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging it never paid him the $18.6 million it said it would if he signed off on the deal.
Now, Wynn Resorts has filed a countersuit, claiming the allegations are false and only meant to interfere with the company’s relationship with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Encore Boston Harbor Everett land deal
The complicated land deal goes back to late 2012 when Wynn agreed to pay landowner FBT Everett Realty, LLC $75 million for the property. The deal was contingent on Wynn obtaining a casino license.
Anthony Gattineri originally claimed to have a 46 percent stake in the company. However, questions about FBT Everett Realty’s ownership arrangements soon arose.
In fact, Wynn got the price of the land dropped to $35 million after allegations arose someone with an ownership interest had a criminal past. Plus, in 2014, the authorities charged Gattineri, Dustin DeNunzio and Charles A. Lightbody with scheming to hide Lightbody’s financial interest in the deal because of his criminal history.
A trial saw all three acquitted in 2016.
Gattineri claims he was initially opposed to accepting $35 million. However, because he only holds a minority stake in the company, he was forced to.
In the meantime, the Gaming Commission asked Wynn to get documents certifying each of FBT Everett Realty’s owners’ interest in the company was theirs only.
Gattineri initially refused to sign anything regarding his ownership interest. In the suit filed last month, he claims Wynn executives threatened him with negative press and severe economic consequences.
Ultimately, Wynn executive Robert DeSalvio flew to San Diego to meet with Gattineri.
Gattineri’s alleged $18.6 million handshake deal
Gattineri claims he struck a handshake deal with DeSalvio at that meeting. DeSalvio allegedly agreed to pay him the cash he lost on the price reduction. In return for some $18.6 million, Gattineri would sign the document certifying his ownership interest in the land was his alone.
Gattineri also claims he asked for the offer in writing. However, he says DeSalvio claimed casino operator regulations made that next to impossible.
Wynn finalized the land deal and began construction on the $2.5 billion casino resort. Gattineri never received the $18.6 million he claims to have negotiated.
His lawsuit claims this constitutes a breach of contract, unfair trade practices, and fraud. Gattineri is seeking damages of $18.6 million plus interest and court costs.
Encore Boston Harbor spokesman Greg John told the Boston Globe the suit is as an attempt to extract an additional multi-million-dollar payment from Wynn. A payment beyond the one negotiated and accepted by Gattineri and his partners in the original land deal. A deal John said concluded years ago:
“Mr. Gattineri’s claim that a publicly-traded company in a highly-regulated industry would execute a $20 million transaction on a handshake deal, without any documentation or paperwork, is implausible and will be vigorously defended by Wynn.”
Wynn reportedly notified the Massachusetts Gaming Commission of the lawsuit and the Commission’s legal department is reviewing it.
Wynn Resorts’ countersuit
In the meantime, Wynn Resorts responded with a countersuit this week.
Wynn alleges Gattineri’s conduct is “intentionally and maliciously” designed to interfere with Wynn’s business relations with the Commission.
Gattineri’s attorney Stephen Gordon told the Boston Herald the counterclaim has no merit:
“They seem to be suggesting merely filing a lawsuit to enforce Mr. Gattineri’s contractual rights interferes with their relationship with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.”
More Encore Boston Harbor controversy
Of course, this isn’t the only controversy surrounding the Encore Boston Harbor casino project.
Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal published various sexual misconduct allegations against chief executive Steve Wynn. He resigned in February, despite denying the allegations.
In April, Wynn Resorts changed the name of the Everett project from Wynn Boston Harbor to Encore Boston Harbor. If all goes according to plan, Encore Boston Harbor will open June 24, 2019.