Encore opening soon with restrictions, but longterm viability is in question

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The Boston Harbor Encore Casino is scheduled to reopen on June 29. (Photo by Jim Mahoney)


If everything goes according to current plans, Encore Boston Harbor Casino could be opening again on June 29. Last minute changes and additions to health and safety standards by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, all part of the new normal caused by safety measures the state is imposing, could cause the reopening to be put off a few days or even a week or two.

Shortly, however, one way or the other, for better or worse, the casino will be reopened, thus ending a closure which began on March 15 and which has resulted in tens of millions of dollars of losses on a variety of fronts. When the doors open, the casino operation will be a vastly different venue than before the Coronavirus changed our world.
No poker, craps or roulette will be allowed. Blackjack style gaming tables will be capped at three players, and slot machines will be separated with some sort of barriers between them to protect players from contracting the virus.

The MGC is also weighing occupancy limits, an issue the licensees have raised issues about.

At a fraction of occupancy, Encore, and the other casinos operating in Massachusetts, cannot possibly generate the income needed to meet their obligations and to turn a profit.

Encore’s question to the MGC: “Will reduced capacity include taking into consideration employee counts?”

Short term, this is not the end of the world.

Long term, it is a business killer.

Limiting the number of people gaming inside the casino at any given time raises a big issue with management because so many employees are inside the casino to begin with.

Also, the MGC’s requirement that plexiglass shields be installed at all gaming tables is another matter that will likely cause serious negative cumulative effects on doing business.

At least a week before reopening, Encore and each licensee will be required to submit its own plan detailing “the steps and measures the licensee will take to achieve compliance with the guidance and protocols” to the Gaming Commission, and each facility will have to be fully cleaned and disinfected.

Upon arrival, gamblers will be told not to enter if they have recently had any COVID-19 symptoms, casino staffers will hand out masks or face coverings if guests do not have their own, and hand sanitizer will be made available. Players will be required to wear something that covers their nose and mouth upon entry and while in the gaming area.

The casinos will be asked to limit how often players touch cards or chips and will have to develop a protocol for chip sanitization so that all chips have been sanitized before they are issued. Each facility will also have to come up with a plan to replace cards based on volume and frequency of play.

The Encore Hotel will remain closed for the time being.

Restaurants inside the casino and hotel will also remain closed and when reopened, will remain subject to restrictive health and hygiene standards imposed by the state.

Wynn Resorts stock has fallen about $6 a share since last week. The price this week was in the range of $87 per share.

The market cap, that is, the value of all the outstanding stock was $10 billion last week. It begins this week at $9.36 billion.

Wynn’s cash cow is its operation in Macau, China. Since reopening there some weeks back, gross gaming revenue was about 25% of its historical run rate, according to Barron’s.

Wynn’s Las Vegas operation opened two weeks ago. Figures have not yet been released. However, there is a great wave of relief among Wynn officials that the doors are again open, and people are coming inside to gamble.

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