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Steve Wynn Absent But Far From Forgotten At $2.6B Encore Boston Harbor Opening

The glittering lights may say “Encore,” but Steve Wynn’s presence is impossible to miss at the 3M SF Boston casino originally slated to carry his name.

The casino floor at Encore Boston Harbor

Encore Boston Harbor opened its front doors Sunday morning after more than a year of uncertainty over if the casino under Wynn Resorts ownership would ever see the first whirl of a roulette wheel.

A Wall Street Journal report detailing decades of sexual misconduct allegations against the casino mogul and then-CEO Wynn led to his stepping down from his namesake company and sparked investigations from gaming agencies from Massachusetts to Macau.   

But after accruing tens of millions of dollars in fines, changing the name of the $2.6B Everett casino from Wynn Boston Harbor to Encore Boston Harbor and briefly considering a sale of the property to rival MGM resorts, Wynn Resorts has officially entered the Massachusetts gaming market and is intent on making it a hub for international gambling.

“This is not a United States story,” Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox said Friday during a pre-opening press conference. “This is a global story.”

It is also a complicated one. 

Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox and Encore Boston Harbor President Robert DeSalvio

While the name change to Encore — the moniker used for the second phase hotels at Wynn Resorts’ properties in Las Vegas and Macau — was supposed to show the company had distanced itself from its founder, the two are still intertwined. 

The scrawled neon across the 671-room hotel tower is in Wynn’s handwriting, and the upscale Sinatra restaurant in the casino (a companion to a location in Vegas) is the result of the close relationship between Steve Wynn and the Sinatra family, an Encore Boston Harbor tour guide told members of the press Friday. 

Around the corner from Sinatra, visitors will find a $28M Jeff Koon’s Popeye sculpture Wynn bought at an auction in 2014 specifically for the Boston property. 

“He wanted it on the waterfront since Popeye is a sailor man,” Encore Boston Harbor Chef Concierge Marc Simoneau said.

A $28M Jeff Koons statue of Popeye, specifically purchased by Steve Wynn in 2014 for the resort, is prominently displayed.

Even the aspects of the casino without direct connections to Wynn are easily traced back to his careful attention to detail. 

The 210K SF casino — bigger than Wynn Resorts’ Las Vegas casinos combined — is brightly lit and smoke-free. It also comes with a high stakes area on the second level where table bets start at $100. Play enough there, and you might score an invite to one of three private gambling salons. 

If you’re the highest of high rollers, you could even get a night in the Presidential Villa, a nearly 6K SF, two-story suite that is typically by invitation only but would go for $12K per night, Simoneau said. It comes with a gym that staff will stock with equipment tailored to each guest’s demands. 

For the not-so-high rollers, a standard room at Encore clocks in at 650 SF, which Wynn Resorts bills as the largest standard-sized hotel room in New England. 

It is hard to walk too far throughout the resort without finding an opulent floral arrangement (the casino spends $18K on flowers every two weeks, an official said) or a picture window overlooking the Mystic River and the previously contaminated Encore property where Wynn Resorts spent $68M on pollution cleanup and replaced with gardens and art. 

It is also easy to find a way to blow a paycheck: The Rare Steakhouse, one of about 10 U.S. restaurants with the proper certification to serve real Japanese Kobe beef, offers a 4-ounce cut of meat for $250. Veal parmesan clocks in at $59 at Sinatra.

The level of opulence and detail is partially why Massachusetts awarded Wynn Resorts the only casino license in Greater Boston – and why Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria repeatedly threatened to use his power of veto during the potential sales talk with MGM. 

But talks of vetoes and sales are in the past, at least in the public eye.

The main lobby features a pair of curved escalators leading to a cocktail bar and the high-limit portion of the casino.

Maddox, DeMaria and Encore Boston Harbor President Robert DeSalvio were all smiles ahead of the Encore opening. 

The Everett mayor indicated Friday that a future pedestrian bridge across the Mystic to the Assembly MBTA station and surrounding Assembly Row mixed-use development was basically a guarantee. DeSalvio said there is still mitigation work to be done and negotiations with other stakeholders before such a project would move forward. 

Maddox expressed interest in creating an Everett entertainment district in potential later phases, including on the 11 acres Wynn Resorts has bought over the last four years around the 33-acre Encore Boston Harbor property. 

But before any later phases move ahead, all eyes will be on how the casino performs in its first few months. 

Maddox declined Friday to say what revenue numbers Wynn Resorts wants to see from Encore in its first few months before calling it a success. 

Wynn Resorts initially projected stabilized third-year revenues of a little more than $800M when the overall development cost was around $1.2B, according to University of Texas Rio Grande Valley professor and casino expert Clyde Barrow. First-year casino revenues are typically 70% of the stabilized cost, or $560M in the case of Encore Boston Harbor. 

Given how the East Coast is in a casino development boom that some say is oversaturating the market, Barrow isn’t entirely optimistic for Wynn’s outlook in Greater Boston. 

While most casinos have higher-than-normal numbers in their first few months due to curiosity, Barrow said that hasn’t been the case with recently opened casinos in the Northeast.

Encore Boston Harbor

Before opening MGM Springfield, MGM Resorts anticipated the Western Massachusetts casino resort would make nearly $35M each month. Its best month of operation was its opening month last September, when it made close to $27M. 

Even with Encore Boston Harbor’s marketing as a global gambling destination as opposed to MGM Springfield’s regional appeal, Barrow isn’t convinced Wynn Resorts will have better luck than MGM. 

“Sure, they have this advantage of being next to Boston and an ability to tap into a global network of whales [extreme high-rollers],” Barrow said. “But I don’t know why, if I’m coming from China, Thailand or Singapore, I’d fly over Las Vegas to go to Everett.”

The Encore Boston Harbor team is still doubling down on making things work in Greater Boston. 

Maddox indicated international gamblers invited from Asia are expected to arrive at the casino this week and Wynn Resorts is consistently at work marketing the resorts abroad. But there is one thing Wynn Resorts is not interested in doing, at least anymore.  

“Encore Boston Harbor is not for sale,” Maddox said.