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?”
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) announced last week that it will be holding closed door hearings to discuss issues surrounding a multi- million lawsuit between it, the MGC, and the original owners of the land, FBT Realty.
Claiming public discussions might have a detrimental effect on the bargaining position of the Commission, the MGC opted for an executive session.
It is believed at least two executive sessions were held last week by the MGC.
What is at risk for the MGC?
It is very likely the MGC will be forced to payout millions of dollars to FBT and that Wynn Resorts will be forced to do the same, to satisfy claims by FBT that the MGC reduced the price of the land from $75 million to $35 million to seal the deal for Wynn Resorts to acquire it.
A source familiar with the lawsuit has estimated that a settlement might pay back FBT partners as much as $20 million of the $40 million reduction.
Wynn struck a deal with the partners of FBT for $75 million when the initial option to purchase was executed in December 2012.
A year later, after MGC accused certain FBT members of altering documents to hide the interest of a convicted felon, a person law enforcement believed was associated with organized crime. The acquisition was put into jeopardy.
Wynn Resorts CEO Matthew Maddox took over the company in a crisis that would have tested the most seasoned executive. As the right-hand-man to Steve Wynn for nearly 20 years, Maddox not only learned from the casino magnate but earned his respect. Now Maddox is considering whether the company stays in Boston or moves on.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) gave its decision on Wynn’s suitability last week with a number of conditions, including a fine of $35 million for the company and $500,000 for Maddox. While one would think Wynn/Maddox would cut the checks and move on, MGC’s wording in its decision may cause problems for Wynn down the road … or it could offer a way for Wynn to bow out gracefully.
This week’s meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission was a bit like the frosting on the cake for Encore officials.
The discussion was no longer about suitability or cheating and lies. It was about getting the casino and hotel open on time and making predictions about how best to handle the crush of humanity that will descend upon the place on the day it opens.
That day is set for June 23 – but finishing touches have a long way to go.
The casino has already brought 930 employees on board. Encore officials said 86 percent of its total hires are currently in its hiring process. At its peak, Wynn Resorts expects the workforce at Encore Boston Harbor will total about 5,500.
When opening day comes, Encore Boston Harbor will put into action a plan that it has developed over the last year-plus with community officials from surrounding cities and towns, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and other partners.