Questions Raised About Proposed Performance Venue
By Josh Resnek
During the first week of December when Encore announced it is going to build an 1,800 seat performance venue for concerts, and sporting events across from the casino on land it owns, the proposal was met with wows by Everett officials.
It will cost many millions to build such a facility and with the added parking garage in the development package, such a facility was perceived as an adjunct to the casino property across the street.
With such a facility, Encore’s client base could be expanded geometrically, and especially on the nights of performances attracting thousands of people who would ultimately saunter across the street, over the proposed bridge, and finish off the night gaming at the casino. The only problem?
State gaming laws blocks performance venues at casinos.
Because local theater owners and such facilities in Greater Boston might be negatively affected.
The state law prevents entertainment venues ranging in size from 1,000 to 3,500 seats from being built in casinos. But Wynn plans to build the venue across the street from the Encore property and bring in a separate business, most likely Big Night Entertainment Group, to operate it. And Wynn says the venue will operate without a subsidy from the casino, according to a recent report in the Boston Globe.
Bill Blumenreich, a promoter who runs the 1,100- seat Wilbur in Boston and the 1,875-seat Chevalier in Medford, said he is consulting with an attorney about what steps he should take next. He attended a planning commission meeting in Everett earlier this month to raise his objections to city officials.
“I don’t think it will stand up in court,” Blumenreich said. “The city of Medford and myself are considering hiring a lawyer who is going to protect our rights and make sure the Encore is following the law.”
Executives at Wynn and Big Night — who are in final discussions about operating the new venue — say the theater operators are overreacting. Michael Weaver, spokesman for Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts, said the events center in Everett would be leased to Big Night, which would run it as a for-profit operation financially independent of the casino.
“It is our expectation that Big Night will operate the venue based on the same financial metrics it uses to operate all of its local venues,” Weaver said in a statement, “and will make programming decisions according to what it believes will be both popular and profitable for itself.”
But what is profitable for the casino does not likely translate into higher earnings for other theater owners and operators in the area. “There are several … historic venues that already exist in a very competitive market,” said Erica Lynn Schwartz, a vice president with Ambassador Theatre Group, which runs the Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston. “Especially coming out of the pandemic, it is very difficult to understand how another venue is needed when the already established venues who mean so much to their communities need to thrive.”
Encore’s business plan apparently provides for an independent operator to own and run the entertainment operation while Encore will own the physical plant.
This way, the casino does not technically or legally own the business.
For Everett, such a facility is yet another boost to the local economy, which is dwarfed by the casino and hotel operation.
The casino expanding its reach is a positive for Everett, many local officials believe.
Everett Planning Board members mostly approved of the proposal. It is expected the Planning Board will approve the plans and set the stage for the facility and the parking garage to be built. ……………………………………………
Information from a December 28 Boston Globe business report was used in the creation of this article.