Wynn Resorts, regulators turn to casino opening


BOSTON (SHNS) – With significant regulatory hurdles now cleared, Wynn Resorts and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Monday turned their attention to the work that must be completed in order for the Encore Boston Harbor casino, the largest single-phase private development in the history of Massachusetts, to open next month as planned.

Overseers of the mammoth resort casino preparing to open on the Mystic River in Everett said the project is on track and expect to open the doors at the $2.6 billion project site on June 23. The initial workforce will be hired and more than 3,000 gaming machines and tables will be installed by the end of May.

“We’re essentially on schedule and we expect to be in very good shape by the first of June,” Peter Campot, head of Wynn Resorts’ design and construction arm, said. He added, “All of the slot machines are on the floor now and I think all of them are installed and we’re also installing gaming tables throughout. So if you walk through the facility right now it actually looks like a casino, which is pretty neat.”

Campot and Encore Boston Harbor Vice President Jacqui Krum said the company aims to have the construction work done by June 1 to give the operations teams enough time to prepare for the scheduled June 23 opening. The company is expecting to receive its certificate of occupancy from the city of Everett by June 10.

“We have no reason right now to think that won’t happen,” Gaming Commission Construction Project Oversight Manager Joe Delaney said Monday.

Between now and then, workers will be “in the final throes of finishing spaces throughout the facility” and working to address outstanding items on the punch list, Campot said.

He and Krum said the hotel portion is almost entirely finished, with furniture now being installed on the 27th of 27 floors. The convention center space is complete and some ceiling framing and drywall work is about all that remains to be done on the gaming floor, they said. The state has begun the process of inspecting all of the resort’s elevators and escalators.

The casino’s parking garage is finished except for some work on a single floor, paving is about 70 percent complete around the project site and landscaping work might “go right up until the end,” Campot said.

Monday’s meeting, with agenda items covering traffic monitoring and other development-focused issues, marked the turning of a page from a focus on Wynn Resorts’ suitability to hold its casino license to the opening of the Boston-area casino.

While work continued at the Everett construction site, the Gaming Commission was busy investigating how Wynn Resorts handled allegations of sexual misconduct against founder Steve Wynn. Last week, the commission fined the company $35 million and imposed a series of conditions for it to retain its license.

“Thank you for having us here. We really appreciate it,” Krum said at the start of the company’s presentation Monday. Wynn Resorts has not yet said whether it will pay the commission’s fine or seek an appeal through the courts. On Monday, a Wynn Resorts spokesman said the company will announce its decision within the 30 days it has to pay the fine.

Gaming Commission Executive Director Edward Bedrosian said Monday’s meeting agenda represented the “culmination of parallel paths getting ready for the opening of Encore Boston Harbor.”

The casino has already brought 930 employees on board and 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.

“Generally, it’s gone really smoothly,” Krum said of the hiring process. She said the casino wants to have its employees hired by June 1 so everyone can go through training and a company orientation ahead of the grand opening.

Police details

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.

“This particular aspect of the project, I stayed very close to,” Bob DeSalvio, president of Encore Boston Harbor, said about the casino’s plan for public safety and traffic during its early days. “I’m a little more than five years into the project and this was probably the number one topic we had at all of our public meetings, so I wanted to stay close to this one personally.”

The casino has hired more than 100 police officers to work details at and around the casino during its opening, including 84 troopers from the State Police, 12 Everett officers, 13 Boston officers eight officers from Medford and 13 officers from the MBTA Transit Police. The U.S. Coast Guard, State Police, Everett PD and Boston PD will patrol the Mystic River and surrounding waterways, and Boston’s transportation and public works departments will be on hand to assist with signaling issues or issues at the Alford Street Bridge.

“We’ve got this covered — air, land and sea,” DeSalvio said Monday, adding that the various law enforcement agencies have agreed to make officers available for details until things settle down at the site. He added, “We know that first week for sure is going to be a challenge, after that we’re going to wait and see what the midweeks are like … There’s clearly going to be a new kid on the block syndrome, you’re going to have a lot of initial trial and all of our partners have said that they will work with us all the way through that.”

New signs will be installed on the Mass. Turnpike, I-93 and local roads to direct drivers to the casino, but DeSalvio said the company’s pre-opening messaging is going to emphasize that gamblers should use public transportation instead of driving.

“We’re trying anything and everything to make it easy for folks to hopefully choose anything other than using their automobile,” he said.

The commission on Monday also discussed a timeline for the final phase of construction and changes to the project’s design since it was last approved in 2016 — including an increase in the number of hotel rooms and a reduction to planned retail space — both items which the commission must vote on at a later meeting.

“During May and June, we may be required to have what I might call out-of-cycle or even short meetings to get some of these things ultimately addressed,” Bedrosian told commissioners Monday.

Wynn Resorts expects to receive about eight million visitors a year at Encore Boston Harbor — “more than the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots combined,” it says in a press release on its website — and the state looks set to bake almost $100 million in revenue from the casino into its next budget.

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