With 671 guest rooms, a 210,000 square-foot casino, more than 3,000 slot machines, a 37,000 square-foot ballroom, a 21,000 square-foot waterfront lawn and more than a dozen restaurants and bars, everything about the Encore Boston Harbor resort and casino is immense.
That includes the wager its developer, Wynn Resorts, is placing on its success.
The enterprise cost $2.6 billion dollars to build, at a time when many East Coast casinos are struggling. And the development had been shrouded in controversy for the last 13 months because of sexual harassment allegations against the company’s founder.
But state regulators on Tuesday gave Encore the go-ahead to open in June, as scheduled.
The team behind the resort and casino said that it will thrive thanks to the proximity of Logan International Airport, the airport’s increased traffic and ongoing expansion, and the many colleges and universities in the area.
“If you go downtown Boston you see nothing other than cranes,” said Bob DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor. “It’s just on an incredible tear as far as economic development, so you know you add that all up, and the fact that we ended up with the sole license in eastern Massachusetts, and it’s just a great recipe.”
The Encore isn’t actually in Boston, it’s in the city of Everett, just across the Mystic River from downtown Boston. The building towers so high that you can see its curved copper-bronze facade from points around town, including from I-93, Route 1 and other major roads in the area.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission released a report in early April saying that executives at Wynn Resorts helped hide sexual misconduct allegations against the company’s billionaire founder, Steve Wynn. Mr. Wynn was forced to resign as the company’s chairman and chief executive last year, after The Wall Street Journal published articles describing a pattern of sexual misconduct, including accusations that he had pressured employees for sex.
On Tuesday, the commission said it would allow the developer to keep its casino license, paving the way for the property to open in June. It also fined the company $35 million and its chief executive, Matt Maddox, an additional $500,000.
In an interview in Boston in April, Mr. DeSalvio emphasized Mr. Wynn’s departure and said the company had transitioned from being “founder-led” to being “team-oriented.”
“It’s not about the man, it’s about the brand and the brand has stood for quality, excellence and service for many many years,” he said. “When we survey our guests very few would have ever met Mr. Wynn. What they do know is what the brand stands for and that’s something that will not change.”
Everett is a working-class city of about 45,000 people and residents had mixed responses when the casino was first announced in 2014. But the company has committed to hiring about 6,000 people and to working with local businesses, as well as conducting a major environmental cleanup.
The building’s 33-acre waterfront site was one of the most contaminated in the state — the kind of place where people still talk about getting headaches from the toxins. Over 18 months, Encore pulled nearly a million tons of contaminated sediment from the area and the Mystic River.
“Awful stuff had been dumped and spilled, it was a train wreck of a site,” said Elizabeth Henry, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts. “Nobody wanted to touch it because the environmental liabilities were expensive to touch.”
Ms. Henry said that her organization — a nonprofit supported by individual and foundation philanthropy, dues from citizens and organization members, and proceeds from special events — rarely endorses projects, but supported the casino project because of its positive effect on the surrounding environment.
Following the cleanup, the developers planted 1,000 pine, maple, weeping cherry and pear trees; tens of thousands of shrubs and 50,000 flowers that will be changed seasonally, many of them native. (The company also has green turf in its own signature proprietary color.)
Patrick Chadwick, Encore’s director of horticulture and floral, has chosen every tree and type of flower at the resort. Half of the gardens will be irrigated with rainwater runoff from the building.
“They’ve taken the physical building seriously in terms of sustainability,” Ms. Henry said. “It’ll also be easier to walk around and bike to the casino and through to some of the adjacent neighborhoods. They’ve doubled down on interconnectivity and so, in a way, that benefits the whole community.”
The Encore’s rooms range from about $500 to about $2,000 per night, depending on season, demand and room type. The smallest room is 650 square feet and the largest — a two-story villa with three bedrooms — is 5,800 square feet. Some rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, a view of Boston Harbor and the city’s skyline.
“I hope when I design these places that an elegant couple in a tuxedo encounters a really young couple in jeans and a T-shirt on their way crossing on the staircase,” said Roger Thomas, Wynn Resorts executive vice president of design. “I think that’s an important thing to have happen — I like everybody looking at everybody.”
The expectation is that the Encore will draw locals, national and international guests. It is providing shuttles from nearby towns as well as water taxis from Boston. Guests in the casino will be allowed to drink until 4 a.m., instead of the 2 a.m. cutoff for all bars, restaurants and clubs in the state.
Daniel Lanigan was born and raised in Everett, and is the founder and owner of Lord Hobo Brewing Company; his beer will be served at the Encore along with other local craft beers. To Mr. Lanigan, the casino signals development his hometown desperately needs. Along with providing thousands of jobs, he said, it will give a boost to the Boston area’s reputation as a world-class city.
“I can see how some other metropolitan areas might poo-poo the idea of a Vegas casino coming in and throwing weight around, but I don’t get that vibe here at all,” Mr. Lanigan said. “I get a lot of support, a lot of curiosity.”
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