Proposed Encore Boston Harbor expansion draws mixed opinions

Encore’s mighty hotel shows stature in brilliant sunlight. (Photo by Joe Resnek)

By Dan Holmes
Special to the Leader Herald

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) held a special public hearing at Everett City Hall last week to invite comment on Wynn’s proposal for a multi-use development area near the casino. Wynn is the parent company of EBH.

The plans for expansion call for an additional Category 1 gaming license for Wynn and EBH, and several additions to the surrounding area. According to Wynn, work could begin in 2023, and the new facility could open by 2025.

Plans for expansion

The development would add many features, including a poker room, sports betting parlor, nightclub, theater, and parking garage. The existing Encore Boston Harbor would connect to the new property via a pedestrian bridge.

The site of the proposed development is across the street from EBH on the east side of Broadway in Everett.

When it comes to transportation, the new site would feature complementary shuttles and a Blue Bike program.

However, during public comments at the hearing, not every voice was in favor of the proposed EBH expansion. A labor representative hinted that his group would like to support the Wynn project, but isn’t ready to yet.

“We want the commitment (to hiring diverse employees) to remain as Encore Boston Harbor grows,” said Jamie McNeil, a representative of UNITE HERE Local 26, a Boston-area hospitality workers union.

McNeil reminded the commission that they supported ECB when it applied for a gaming license and submitted a development plan more than a decade ago.

But McNeil explained that things have changed.

“We look forward to supporting this application, but at this hour we don’t have a labor harmony commitment on all aspects of this applications operations,” he said. “We cannot provide the MGC or the application with a support letter at this hour.”

Wynn promises economic prosperity

State law mandates that any proposed plans for a gaming project at one of the Massachusetts casinos must include whether the applicant has created a plan for “labor harmony” in their proposal.

Wynn promised 2,000 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs in Everett once the project is completed. There was also a promise of a $5 million contribution to help fund affordable housing in Everett.

Wynn’s plan calls for 50% of new hires to be women, while also focusing on minorities and veterans in their workforce.

In addition, a representative from Wynn underscored the company has a commitment to a zero net energy building during operations.

Mixed reactions from citizens

Several members of Local 26 added statements that expressed concern over the growth, but also shared optimism that EBH and Wynn could infuse more economic prosperity to Everett. Other Everett citizens said that they would prefer the proposal be decided by a referendum.

I n 2013, Everett voters agreed to approve the EBH casino, but there is dispute as to whether that decision allows the city to pursue further construction for gaming purposes in that same area.

Numerous employees of Encore Boston Harbor appeared in support of the expanded project across from Broadway.

“If this (new project) offers more opportunities like mine, I am in favor of it,” Anika Pieres, an assistant director for EBH, said.

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