By Josh Resnek
This week’s meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was a bit like the frosting on the cake for Encore officials.
The discussion was no longer about suitability or cheating and lies. It was about getting the casino and hotel open on time and making predictions about how best to handle the crush of humanity that will descend upon the place on the day it opens.
That day is set for June 23 – but finishing touches have a long way to go.
The casino has already brought 930 employees on board. Encore officials said 86 percent of its total hires are currently in its hiring process. At its peak, Wynn Resorts expects the workforce at Encore Boston Harbor will total about 5,500.
When opening day comes, Encore Boston Harbor will put into action a plan that it has developed over the last year-plus with community officials from surrounding cities and towns, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and other partners.
“This particular aspect of the project, I stayed very close to,” Bob DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor, said about the casino’s plan for public safety and traffic during its early days. “I’m a little more than five years into the project and this was probably the number one topic we had at all of our public meetings, so I wanted to stay close to this one personally.”
The casino has hired more than 100 police officers to work details at and around the casino during its opening, including 84 troopers from the State Police, 12 Everett officers, 13 Boston officers eight officers from Medford and 13 officers from the MBTA Transit Police. The U.S. Coast Guard, State Police, Everett PD and Boston PD will patrol the Mystic River and surrounding waterways, and Boston’s transportation and public works departments will be on hand to assist with signaling issues or issues at the Alford Street Bridge.
“We’ve got this covered — air, land and sea,” DeSalvio said Monday, adding that the various law enforcement agencies have agreed to make officers available for details until things settle down at the site. He added, “We know that first week for sure is going to be a challenge, after that we’re going to wait and see what the midweeks are like … There’s clearly going to be a new kid on the block syndrome, you’re going to have a lot of initial trial and all of our partners have said that they will work with us all the way through that.”
Everett City Councilors have recently expressed worry about the potential traffic catastrophe that is bound to come with the opening.
“We are deeply concerned about traffic issues and the impossibility of it all,” said councilors Mike McLaughlin, Wayne Matewsky and Peter Napolitano.
The entire council is crossing their fingers and hoping the casino’s income is a fair trade for all the problems it is likely going to cause.
“Traffic that is already bad is going to get worse,” said McLaughlin.
City hall is hopeful about traffic issues. For the past two years, city hall has been boasting about traffic studies, roadway improvements and police details as the triumvirate that guarantees a smooth opening and day to day existence in the city.
But does the casino have the ability to deal with the planned 8 million visitors during the next 12 months – more than the total attendance for the Bruins, Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox?
That’s a good question.
New signs will be installed on the Mass. Turnpike, I-93 and local roads to direct drivers to the casino, but DeSalvio said the company’s pre-opening messaging is going to emphasize that gamblers should use public transportation instead of driving.
“We’re trying anything and everything to make it easy for folks to hopefully choose anything other than using their automobile,” he said. The commission on Monday also discussed a timeline for the final phase of construction and changes to the project’s design since it was last approved in 2016 — including an increase in the number of hotel rooms and a reduction to planned retail space — both items which the commission must vote on at a later meeting.The commission said it may be required to hold added meetings to meet the crush of details which must be voted on and hashed out before the doors open on June 23.