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Whenever Massachusetts approves sports gambling, Encore’s casino is ready

The WynnBet Sports Bar at Encore Boston Harbor may soon be a place where you can place a sports wager.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

The easy fix will be to switch out the word “Bar” in all the “WynnBET Sports Bar” signs with “Book.”

Then they’ll have to hire a squad of employees to occupy the 10 empty teller spaces in the sports bar, Encore Boston Harbor’s newest attraction on its casino floor.

Other than that, the only thing the hotel-casino is waiting on before it can convert its sports bar into the only brick-and-mortar sports book in the Boston metro area is for the Massachusetts Legislature to legalize sports betting and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to sign off on the space.


Until then, the casino will use its spacious and stylish 400-plus-seat space as a restaurant and bar for patrons who want to take a break from the slot machines and blackjack tables.

“I’m optimistic for the commonwealth to at some point legalize sports betting; the form that it takes and the time in which that happens is anyone’s guess,” said the hotel-casino’s president, Jenny Holaday. “I think we have a beautiful space that serves a lot of purposes, so we’ll be set in creating a better guest experience in the meantime.

“And if and when it does get legalized, we’ll be ready to move quickly to offer that additional service to our guests.”

With Connecticut launching sports betting in October, the pressure to pass a sports betting bill will likely intensify on Beacon Hill. Any legislation is expected to cater to online apps, or “skins,” that will allow bettors to place wagers on their phones.

One of two memorabilia rooms at the WynnBet Sports Bar.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Exactly how the retail space shakes out is very much up in the air. Whether or not bodegas, convenience stores, restaurants, and sports bars will be able to have betting kiosks on site — and whether Gillette Stadium, TD Garden, and Fenway Park will be allowed to have sports books at or adjacent to them — is still to be debated.


Encore Boston Harbor is one of three operating casinos in the state, and all three are expected to gain approval from the MGC to have their own sites, and perhaps their own skins as well.

Like Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville will be ready to take sports wagers as soon as it’s legal. Plainridge general manager North Grounsell said the casino has plans for both a temporary and permanent sports book, pending regulatory approval. The casino is owned by Penn National Gaming, which owns and operates the Barstool Sportsbook app for online wagering.

MGM Springfield has reserved space in its casino for a sports book.

Encore Boston Harbor’s sports book has its own look and feel. A 9-foot-diameter sphere hovers over the bar’s casino floor entrance, the giant ball’s surface area entirely covered by a high-def digital display.

The sports bar occupies the former site of the casino’s buffet, a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The layout is spread out roughly in thirds, with two 100-plus-seat restaurants — Italian offerings and espresso martinis from North End staple Frank & Nick’s and hamburgers, fries, shakes, and craft beer from Shake Shack — on either side of the Center Court area, where the focus is strictly on sports.

The main sports bar is tiled with pennies.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

More than 70 television screens — including the 10-foot-high, 123-foot long mother of them all — plus ticker tapes bathe the Center Court area in an LED glow, with broadcast game sound piped into the venue during big events (think Patriots games).


The light-colored hardwood floors, well-lit seating areas, and 28-foot-high ceilings keep the sports bar from the “man-cave influence” Holaday has seen in other sports bars and sports books.

“Our space to me feels open and airy and easy to flow through,” she said. “I’m sure I’m very biased, but I think it’s gorgeous.”

The sports bar won’t be mistaken for being overly masculine, nor could it be confused with most Boston-area taverns festooned with Tom Brady, Larry Bird, David Ortiz, and Bobby Orr paraphernalia.

That’s not accidental.

A focus on the customer experience and comfort came first, said Holaday, before putting on “all of the gingerbread, all of the photographs, the merchandise displays, the memorabilia.

“We wanted all of that to be representative of our location and our adopted community. But the design did not lead with that, that’s for sure.

“Quite frankly, if we had, it probably would have been not necessarily appreciated, because I don’t know that we lead with the Boston brand; we lead with the Wynn brand, and that space is evident of that.”

Michael Silverman can be reached at