Encore Boston Harbor president Brian Gullbrants is leaving for a high-profile Las Vegas job with the resort’s parent company, which has appointed his deputy, Jenny Holaday, as his successor in Everett. She will become the first woman to run a casino in Massachusetts.
Wynn Resorts, which owns Encore, told employees last week that Gullbrants will become president of its flagship Wynn Las Vegas properties. He departs in August.
In a letter to staff, Wynn Resorts chief executive Matt Maddox said Gullbrants “has established strong relationships with regulators and gained the confidence of the local community.”
“I have been impressed with the strong team he has built around him — both executives and the dedicated and talented service team — and the results: [Encore Boston Harbor] is now experiencing its best financial performance since opening.”
Holaday has been an executive at gambling companies, including Harrah’s, Caesars Entertainment, and Mandalay Resort Group, according to Wynn Resorts.
“Her experience in gaming, marketing and strategic planning make her the perfect choice to move Encore forward,” Maddox wrote.
In an interview, Holaday said her promotion was made especially meaningful by the milestone of becoming the first woman to lead a casino in the state. Her mother also worked in the industry, and Holaday said she was interested in the business from a young age.
“I like to say I learned a lot through osmosis by having a very strong female role model,” she said.
Holaday has been Encore’s executive vice president for operations since October 2019. The company announced her hiring at the same time it elevated Gullbrants to the Everett resort’s top job.
Before taking over the Everett casino, Gullbrants had been its executive vice president of operations. He replaced Robert DeSalvio, who ran the property for five years — through its $2.6 billion construction into its glitzy grand opening in June 2019.
But the casino sputtered out of the gate, with lower-than-expected gambling revenues that headlined a broadly disappointing performance for the state’s fledgling casino industry.
Gullbrants was tasked with increasing Encore’s appeal to customers who may have been put off by Wynn Resorts’ signature emphasis on luxury — and often high-cost — offerings. At the start of his tenure, he set out to swap in some lower-cost dining options in an effort to appeal to a wider swath of players, especially those who might gravitate to Encore’s underperforming slot machines.
In the midst of that effort, Encore was forced to shut down for more than three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, starting in March 2020. Even after the lockdown eased, the casino’s traffic was slowed to a trickle by public health restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.
Those rules, which limited capacity and restricted many table games, only just lifted in recent weeks. But revenues at Encore had already bounced back to pre-pandemic levels led by strong slots totals.
The casino brought in more than $50 million in gaming revenue in April, a month when many pandemic rules remained in effect. That was only slightly below the $52.5 million it generated in February 2020, the last month before the pandemic took hold, according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Holaday said there remains a lot to do to carry out the plans she and Gullbrants had made before the pandemic.
For instance, the convention and event business is only just starting to recover. The casino is also trying to rehire many of the workers it shed during the pandemic. There are about 400 positions open, with 2,700 people currently on staff. Before the pandemic, the resort had a full-time workforce of about 3,300, and about 1,100 part-timers.
“We are not yet fully back on track to being able to do everything we know this resort can do,” Holaday said.
In Las Vegas, Gullbrants will take over for Marilyn Spiegel, who came out of retirement for a three-year engagement in 2018. He said he’s confident in the prospects of the Boston Harbor property.
“I feel like I’m leaving this property and team in very capable and very sound hands,” Gullbrants said.
Andy Rosen can be reached at email@example.com.