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MGM, Wynn Call Off Encore Boston Harbor Sale Talks

Encore Boston Harbor rendering

It was a fleeting Boston courtship between two of the biggest names in casino gaming. 

Days after confirming they were in preliminary sale talks regarding the nearly complete $2.6B Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts announced late Tuesday they were no longer in negotiations. Massachusetts politicians had made it clear they would not make it easy for the two companies to execute a sale. 

“At times, world-class assets attract the attention of others and our board takes seriously its fiduciary duty to review such interest,” Wynn Resorts said in a statement. “We remain committed to opening and operating Encore Boston Harbor.”

Massachusetts gambling regulations allow a company to only have one casino license in the state. MGM already operates the nearly $1B MGM Springfield casino, a resort leaders hope will revitalize the downtown of the western Massachusetts city. MGM would have had to sell the property to acquire Wynn’s resort outside Boston. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday MGM and Wynn would have to get agreements from their respective host cities in order to make a deal, the Wall Street Journal reports. Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria made it clear over the last week — and the last time sales talks were reported — that he held veto power over any sale and he would exercise it on any company that wasn’t Wynn Resorts. 

The sale talks raised questions as to why Wynn Resorts would want to sell. The resort is weeks from its planned June 23 opening, and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission recently fined the company, but ultimately allowed it to continue local operations, after investigating how it handled sexual misconduct allegations against founder and ex-CEO Steve Wynn.

Industry experts told the Boston Globe Wynn Resorts felt it was treated poorly by Massachusetts despite it cleaning up what had been a contaminated site to make way for Encore Boston Harbor, expected to be one of the state’s largest employers. The MGC fined Wynn Resorts $35M and CEO Matthew Maddox $500K along with the stipulation he undergo management coaching. 

At a Wednesday MGC meeting after the sale negotiations fell through, MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said at no point had the potential transaction reached a point where it had been presented to the regulatory body. 

Encore Boston Harbor President Robert DeSalvio spoke to the five-member panel and said the company was confident and working diligently to pull off a successful June 23 opening.