Encore Takes Step Back on Auditorium Development After Pushback

Encore Boston Harbor . (Photo by Jim Mahoney)

The Plan for an Entertainment Venue Put on Hold

By Josh Resnek

The rollout of the auditorium development intended for land across the street from the casino and hotel was a typical Encore public relations victory.

They fed the story to the Boston Globe. The Boston Globe carried the report first early in December, 2021 with a glowing appraisal of the 1800 seat auditorium and parking garage to augment the casino and hotel operation across the street.

But then on December 28, after the Gaming Commission got involved following complaints from a number of theater owners, that the project as reported by the Globe didn’t seem right.

What’s worse, the Globe later reported, a number of theater owners who tend to compete with one another had complained – to the Globe and the Gaming Commission that Encore’s development plans didn’t seem legal.

Another Globe piece this time discussed the Massachusetts Gaming laws which do not allow casinos to build entertainment venues, with an explanation about the Encore development proposal.

“State gaming law blocks performance venues at Casinos but Wynn aims to build one next door in Everett…” the Globe wrote.

Encore, it appears, was going to own the entertainment auditorium but would not own the company who would lease it from Encore. That should have skirted the state’s gaming laws.

Then came a number of discussions between Wynn Resorts and its lawyers, the Gaming Commission and its lawyers, and a variety of interested parties including, we believe, executives of Wynn Resorts.

This was followed by the Michael Weaver press release last week – he’s a vice-president of Wynn Resorts – indicating that Encore is backing away for now from the proposed project and will be reviewing its plans.

Joe Delaney, the Gaming Commission’s chief of community affairs, said he was prepared last Wednesday to brief the commission on the plan that was set to include a 1,800-seat entertainment venue, about 20,000 square feet of restaurant space and a garage with about 2,200 spaces. But he said he heard from casino officials in the last week that they have “decided to pause the permitting process for this development so that they can do some reevaluation on whether the development as proposed is the best use for the site.”

The Gaming Commission was going to take up that question of whether a development across the street from the casino would be considered part of Encore’s technical “gaming establishment” footprint and therefore subject to the commission’s regulatory oversight and the provisions of the state’s expanded gaming law.

“Some issues came up with respect to whether it’s part of the gaming establishment or not — that has certain impacts on their development — as well as COVID and other things that they’re considering at this point in time,” Delaney said. “So Encore has indicated to us that they will come back to us once this evaluation is complete and they have essentially a final proposal to move ahead with, whether it’s this one or with some minor or some major changes.”

We have no reason to disbelieve Delaney. Yet it seems inconceivable that Gaming Commission lawyers and Wynn lawyers failed to discuss the issue before Encore pulled back.

In a larger sense, the pullback indicates a potential fly in the ointment of what has been Encore’s largely laissez faire development on the lower end of Broadway that has been allowed by the state and the city.

The mayor’s failure to say a word about this indicates how he is out of the main stream with Wynn Resorts when it comes to future development in the city.

Wynn Resorts executives, we assume, have been sent into a frenzy of disappointment by having to take a step back.

These are not folks who step back easily from money making projects de- signed to enhance the casino and hotel’s bottom line, especially after investing $2.6 billion.

These are people who want what they want and who are trained to get it and if they don’t, well, all bets are off about the future.

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