Encore Boston Harbor Expansion Project Suspended Over Financial Disagreements

Written By TJ McBride on May 20, 2024
Encore Boston Harbor Expansion Project Suspended

Encore Boston Harbor has been planning to expand its footprint around its Everest, Massachusetts casino for years. However, recent disagreements between Wynn and the city have suspended the project indefinitely.

Owned by Wynn Resorts, Encore Boston Harbor has encountered issues with the city and state before. Wynn received pushback on the expansion plans initially, and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has since fined Encore for taking prohibited bets.

Despite those discrepancies, Encore Boston Harbor has a stranglehold on the Massachusetts casino market. Because of that, there is a chance a mutually beneficial compromise could be found, but that will take time.

Encore Boston Harbor & Everest can’t come to terms on taxes, fees, etc.

Plans to expand Encore Boston Harbor from a casino into a full-fledged entertainment center have been in consideration since 2022. However, after the announcement of suspending the project, there has been no forward momentum.

The expansion was originally intended to feature an entertainment district with a poker room, a second sportsbook, a nightclub, a theater, and a comedy club. A new parking garage would also be added.

Those plans are now suspended due to disagreements on taxes, impact fees and other financial issues. Wynn Resorts recently released a statement with an update on the project, saying:

“We remain optimistic about the project fulfilling the city’s and our shared goal of developing an exciting and vibrant destination district on Lower Broadway with restaurants, hotels, theaters, and other recreational uses. However, it has become apparent that we are unable to negotiate an agreement with the City of Everett regarding property taxes, impact fees, and infrastructure improvements in a timely fashion. Until these issues are addressed with a financially viable resolution we have a responsibility to our shareholders, and cannot continue to incur project costs.”

This is not the first time Encore Boston & the city have been at odds

Encore has had other issues with operating or expanding in Massachusetts. Most recently, Encore Boston was fined $40,000 for accepting prohibited wagers.

Bets on in-state college sports teams are prohibited through Massachusetts sports betting, but the Encore sportsbook took seven wagers in Feb 2023. Even more concerning for the state was that the bets were placed on two separate occasions one week apart. It was not until nine days later that Encore noticed the mistake and self-reported the issue. That process was problematic in the eyes of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which noted:

“Despite identifying the first noncompliance incident, Encore failed to resolve the underlying issue or put adequate guardrails in place, resulting in its immediate repetition. The Commission expects more of its operators and licensees.”

Another issue the Massachusetts Gaming Commission took with Encore was the way it attempted to solve the problem. The ruling continued:

“Such a fix, by sledgehammer rather than scalpel, is not an ideal solution. Operators should work to identify issues and fix them in a nuanced manner that reflects a full understanding of the issue in question.”

Additionally, the expansion plans initially saw pushback from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Metropolitan Area Planning Council Executive Director Marc Draisen outlined those concerns in a statement, saying:

“In its current form, this very substantial project is likely to have very damaging impacts on our climate and our environment and will negatively impact our emission reduction goals, primarily due to the proposed number of (mostly free) parking spaces.”

Encore Boston Harbor is a valuable asset to Everest, Massachusetts

A natural prediction is that Encore and the city will come to terms and revitalize this project. Encore Boston Harbor is, without a doubt, the most popular Massachusetts casino. Expanding its footprint and its offerings should mean more money for Wynn and more tax dollars for the city and state.

Encore makes two or three times more gross gaming revenue than any other casino in the state virtually every month. In March, Encore generated $70.4 million which was 63.4% of the statewide total. That meant over $17.6 million was generated in taxes for the state and locality.

Despite the possible benefits, both sides are holding strong. According to the Boston Herald, Wynn Resorts Chief Executive Officer Craig Billings said that Wynn is ready to take its money elsewhere if needed.

“[Wynn has] numerous other development projects globally where we can redirect the capital we intended to deploy in Boston.”

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Executive Director Dean Sherpa also said that the state has plans to shift if plans with Wynn become untenable.

“Obviously, we’re all prepared and ready to move forward as things develop further.”

Only time will tell, however, if these plans can be successfully resurrected.

Photo by Dreamstime / PlayMA
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TJ McBride

T.J. McBride lives in Denver, Colorado and is best known for his work covering the Denver Nuggets for outlets such as FiveThirtyEight, ESPN, Bleacher Report, and other major outlets. After a decade covering the NBA, T.J. has now stepped into the gaming space and now reports and writes on gambling news across the nation.

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