May 23, 2019

Wynn Resorts says Encore on track to open June 23

Photo | Courtesy
Wynn Resorts is building this casino in Everett, which is expected to open next month.

With Wynn Resorts ditching talks over possibly selling its Everett project to MGM Resorts and confirming its intention to open the resort in one month, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Wednesday pivoted towards some of the nitty-gritty decisions that are part of opening a casino.

Wynn Resorts said Tuesday night that it had ceased talks around the possible sale of its $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor casino to MGM Resorts and a local company executive confirmed Wednesday that the company plans to open the casino June 23.

"With the commission's approval, we plan on opening June 23rd at 10 a.m.," Bob DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor, said at a Gaming Commission meeting Wednesday morning in Boston.

Asked by a commissioner about recent comments from Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox suggesting the opening of the Everett casino could be delayed by a week or two, DeSalvio said, "That is no longer the case. We will be ready to go June 23 at 10 a.m."

Wynn Resorts has still not said whether it will pay or appeal the $35 million fine assessed by the Gaming Commission earlier this month for the company's "significant" and "repetitive" failures related to sexual misconduct allegations against founder and former CEO Steve Wynn. The company has until the end of the month to pay or appeal the fine if it intends to open Encore Boston Harbor.

A spokesman for Wynn Resorts did not respond when asked by the News Service on Wednesday if the company's Tuesday statement that it is "committed to opening and operating Encore Boston Harbor" is an indication that the company has paid or plans to pay the commission's fine.

Peter Campot, head of Wynn Resorts' design and construction arm, told the commissioners that the $2.6 billion project along the Mystic River in Everett is "100 percent on schedule" to be substantially complete by June 10 and set to open to the public June 23.

"I wouldn't lie to you, there are quite a few things I'm worried about. But I think we have them all under control," he said when Commissioner Gayle Cameron asked if there was anything the project overseer was concerned about. "There's nothing that's a game changer right now. We have a lot of work to do over the next 10 days, but everything's on track."

Gaming Commission Construction Project Oversight Manager Joe Delaney said Wednesday that everything within his team's purview is on track for the June 23 opening. DeSalvio said Encore Boston Harbor, which is expected to employ more than 5,000 people, will run "test days" on June 17, 19 and 20 to prepare for the grand opening.

At the start of the meeting, Gaming Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein addressed the recent talk about the possible sale of Encore Boston Harbor and criticism from some that the commission was not doing its job.

"To be clear, at no time was there a proposed transaction pending before the Commission. However, like many, we were of course closely monitoring developments, and, our focus appropriately remains on the regulatory preparations needed to open Encore Boston Harbor by June 23," she said. "It is, however, worth noting that that the gaming law wisely contemplated the potential for such transfers of interest, and provides a specific procedure governing the process. Under the statute, any transfer of interest will always require Commission approval, preceded by an extended period of evaluation and review."

Judd-Stein said that the commission is "fully committed to dedicating all the resources and attention necessary to ensure that the property can open in a timely and orderly fashion" and pointed to the openings of Plainridge Park Casino and MGM Springfield as successes for the commission.

"Despite the many challenges to bring this massive and complex project to fruition, the fact remains that Massachusetts and the City of Everett is home to a nearly-complete, world-class $2.6 billion development that has dramatically transformed the waterfront; a land that was previously dormant, desolate and contaminated, which upon issuance of a certificate of operation, will soon be a place of employment for more than 5,000 people."

At its meeting in Boston on Wednesday, the Gaming Commission approved Encore Boston Harbor's request to serve alcohol to guests actively gambling between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., and also took action on a number of items related to the minutia of opening the casino, like approving exemptions from the mandatory registration process for employees of restaurants at the casino.

The commission will meet Thursday in Springfield to receive updates from MGM executives and to discuss issues specific to the state's first and still only full-scale casino.


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