Project to include gaming

Massachusetts: Wynn seeking to move forward with proposed Encore Boston Harbor expansion

Reading time 2:34 min

Casino developer and operator Wynn Resorts is seeking to move forward with the expansion of its Everett, Massachusetts casino. The Las Vegas-based firm eyes an entertainment complex across the street where its Encore Boston Harbor casino is located – but needs to earn permission from the state’s Gaming Commission to include gambling on the proposed new site.

The company’s latest vision for the land across Broadway from its Everett casino includes two hotels with ballrooms, three parking garages, a theater, restaurants and clubs as part of a development that would total 1.8 million square feet. But the new plans also call for gambling through a poker room and a sportsbook facility at the site.

However, for these plans to become a reality, Wynn first needs the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to approve them. In the meantime, the company has made progress in local permitting with the project’s first phase, as Everett’s planning board approved a site plan last week, reports The Boston Globe.

The city council could vote this week on a zoning change that would allow gambling to take place at the 13-acre area, which largely consists of parking lots today. The first phase of the project would include a 2,100-space parking garage, a sports bar, a poker room, a nightclub for nearly 1,000 people, a roof-deck “day club,” a 980-seat theater, and a 200-seat comedy club.

The block would be connected to the main casino via a pedestrian bridge over Broadway. Big Night Entertainment Group would run most of the operations in the new building, excluding poker and sports betting, further reports the cited source. Big Night plans to relocate its Memoire nightclub from the casino to the club space in the new building.

About 800 people will be employed at the block’s various venues, Wynn general counsel Jacqui Krum told commissioners last month. The first phase of the development could generate about $3.6 million a year in new property taxes, according to casino executives, while the second phase would bring another $10.8 million yearly in revenue to the city.

The next phase would include two hotels, one with nearly 500 rooms and the other with more than 300. Each building would feature ballrooms and some restaurants and retail areas, in addition to garages with at least 450 spaces. The final block would consist of a two-story building with restaurants and shops.

While Wynn had initially planned no gambling to be carried out on the new development, this vision has changed over time. In fact, with the gaming commission having awarded Wynn the state’s first sports betting license last week, the company now plans to offer sports wagering in the casino and, eventually, in the new building as well.

But for its latest plans to materialize, Wynn must first overcome a number of hurdles. The proposed expansion has led regulators to revisit the 2013 referendum through which Everett voters backed the development of the casino, amid legal concerns about where gambling is allowed.

As the company now seeks the space to include both gaming and sports betting, the venue would need to be regulated by the state’s Gaming Commission. But the state's casino gambling law is “silent” when it comes to expansion of gaming operations beyond the footprint of the existing gaming establishment, commission general counsel Todd Grossman said this month.

The MGC has to answer whether the language of 2013’s referendum authorized casino gaming at just the location specified on the ballot or whether voters approved Wynn’s casino license generally. Representatives for Wynn and for the City of Everett said the possibility of an expansion is in keeping with the intent of the voters’ approval of the casino. As commissioners failed to make a decision at the latest meeting, the discussion will likely spill into the new year.

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