The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) interpreted the 2013 casino referendum in Everett on Wednesday to authorize gaming at the Encore Boston Harbor Casino.
The discussion also included another part of land across the street, which would allow the Massachusetts casino expansion to move ahead.
The MGC made a decision last March about a previous version of Wynn Resort’s development proposal to expand Encore Boston Harbor. At the time, the MGC said the mixed-use casino development would not fall under the regulator’s jurisdiction or oversight. That was because Wynn’s initial project proposal did not include a poker room or sportsbook.
But, once sports betting went live in Massachusetts last summer, Wynn decided to change its plans.
Encore Boston Harbor expansion to include poker and sports betting
Encore’s parent company, Wynn Resorts, has been looking to construct a new building across Broadway from its resort casino, Encore Boston Harbor. The company shared its plans in December while intending to host amenities like:
- A dedicated poker room
- A second sports betting parlor
- A relocated nightclub
- A theater
- Parking garage
The new entertainment complex would connect to the casino by a pedestrian bridge that spans Broadway (Route 99). The only missing piece of the puzzle was the MGC’s approval.
With the decision, Wednesday, the gaming commission and other city and state officials can now review the entire project in greater detail.
Commission voted 4-1 in favor of the Massachusetts casino expansion
The commission voted 4-1 and decided that the expansion was contemplated in the language of the 2013 referendum. The four commissioners who supported the expansion and decided Everett voters didn’t have to vote on the issue again:
- Cathy Judd-Stein
- Nakisha Skinner
- Jordan Maynard
- Brad Hill
Commissioner Eileen O’Brien was the dissenter. According to NBC Boston, O’Brien said she viewed the 2013 approval as “site-specific” and is uncomfortable with the fact that “no one was able to clearly define for her the boundaries of the location that was approved in 2013.” As she commented:
“I’m not opining on the appropriateness of the proposed expansion, what it would do; I think the plans for revitalization are fantastic for that area. What I am not satisfied with is any request that we say, ‘you can expand, but I still can’t tell you where the end of the expansion can go.’
I am not comfortable with the ‘I know it when I see it’ response. But more importantly, I still don’t know where the outer boundaries of this are. And I don’t think that what we’re doing today is the end of the discussion, because I feel like this is going to continue to happen.”
The commission argued for two hours on whether they should allow the expansion under the terms of the 2013 referendum. Chairwoman Judd-Stein then asked the city and casino directly: “What’s the problem, right, of doing another referendum?”
Everett’s lawyer, Jonathan Silverstein, explained that holding a new citywide vote would be expensive. Additionally, it could create delays for the casino expansion project and would be “disrespectful” to the 2013 voters.