Pandemic closing marks rough first year for Encore
By JOSH RESNEK
The Encore Casino and Hotel in Everett celebrated its first anniversary last week; its huge polished brass and glass front doors closed tightly since March 15.
This was not the way the first anniversary was supposed to be.
Since March 15, the world has been turned upside down by the pandemic – and one of its victims, early on, is the gaming business and especially Everett’s casino and hotel.
The future of our casino and hotel remains unknown at the moment.
It is impossible to predict what the outcome will be on business for the casino and hotel as a result of the pandemic.
The questions about the casino and hotel’s future goes beyond the pandemic, however.
The casino wasn’t working right from the beginning.
It never lived up to what it was supposed to be from the start. Built to function like a Babe Ruth that was likely to win the home run crown, it was batting only .250 when it closed down. As a business, the casino’s short life span featured spotty numbers, smaller crowds, larger expenses, more regulation and not a dime of profit since the doors swung open in late June 2019.
Then the doors shut. The entrance to the casino and hotel was blocked with cement stanchions behind which stood a long row of chain link fencing.
The ultimate indignity standing by the blocked front entrance – a smaller portable neon sign announcing to the many thousands who drive past the casino everyday: CLOSED.
The Encore was to have been Steve Wynn’s crowning achievement in New England. His strategy was to build it big, and make it luxurious, to have it appear like his world famous Las Vegas and Macao properties in every way.
But it never fit in.
The architecture is anti-Boston.
Its location across from huge industrial sites offsets the grandeur of being on the Mystic River.
After spending tens of millions on road improvements, there is no traffic to speak of clogging the roads rushing every day to the casino.
It never took off quite as expected.
It has come to reflect the wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A very costly business investment, indeed.
Where it is headed is difficult to imagine as the Encore prepares to reopen.
Wynn Resorts spent $2.6 billion to build the place, running for nine months without a profit and then the doors closed shutting off completely the modest income it was generating.
Tis a harsh reality, indeed.
For the city of Everett and our mayor, the closed casino represents economic and political catastrophe.
The economic failure of the casino and hotel to live up to its expectations is having a short term detrimental effect on the city budget.
Politically, this is the mayor’s baby. He owns it. He was Steve Wynn’s buddy. All kinds of deals were made by all kinds of lawyers, lobbyists, real estatenics, former governors, a Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner, a gangster, the FBI and the State Police to have this project land in Everett.
In the end, the license got granted to Wynn Resorts only when they paid a $35 million fine two days before the place opened for a litany of lies and fabrications to the FBI, the State Police and to the MGC.
The land sale itself and subsequent lawsuits implicated the mayor in alleged illegal activity.
Which he denies.
That was then.
This is now.
The Encore is not paying its bills to the city in a timely fashion. Never has, likely never will.
Now the doors are opening again.
Instead of opening wide, they are remaining half closed. You can’t run a successful casino half-closed with gamblers wearing masks and socially distancing at the same time.
Can you imagine having four or five hearty drinks and trying to do that!
All kinds of limitations have been placed upon Encore to limit crowd size. We all know the rest of the things the virus has erased inside the casino – card games, roulette, craps and on and on.
Who exactly is going to come to Encore and for what? What is the draw?
Slots aren’t the draw. Never have been. Never will be.
Without tourists coming to Boston in droves, Encore will remain open but mostly out of business for many weeks and months to come.
It is hard to imagine. It is impossible to believe.
The Encore, believed to be the greatest business achievement in the city’s history, is basically a bust…right now.
Maybe everything turns around.
Perhaps 4,000 employees laid off are hired back.
Maybe the mayor can rejoice with all of us when this happens.
It ain’t gonna happen, as we say in New England.
Right now, the city’s economic savior has become an economic Albatross.