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Casino is phase one of ‘the entertainment district in the Northeast,’ exec says

Final preparations were being made Friday for Sunday morning’s opening of the Encore Boston Harbor casino.Erin Clark for The Boston Globe

EVERETT — City leaders and Wynn Resorts executives said this weekend’s opening of the glittering $2.6 billion, 671-room Encore Boston Harbor casino resort is probably just the beginning of something even bigger: a massive hotel and entertainment complex on a once grim and heavily polluted stretch of the Mystic River.

“Our idea,” said Matt Maddox, Wynn’s chief executive, at a news conference Friday, “is to continue to redevelop this area so that it’s known as the entertainment district in the Northeast.”

The ambitious concept could feature new entertainment venues, retail businesses, and additional hotels, all linked by a pedestrian bridge across the river to Assembly Row in Somerville, casino officials said.


It’s “part of the city’s vision to make this a full entertainment region where you can go over to Somerville, you can go over to Assembly, and it’s all interconnected,” Maddox said.

Although he did not provide details on when the company might begin to expand, after Encore’s opening, Maddox said the company will learn what it’s missing.

“Is it hotels? Is it arenas? What is it that needs to go here?”

Maddox said Wynn Resorts has purchased 11 acres of land near the casino, giving the company space to realize broader ambitions.

Maddox described Encore as one of the first integrated resort casinos in a major metro area, and said it would serve as “a calling card for other states and other jurisdictions globally to think about putting large-scale integrated resorts that can create real urban renewal.”

One of those countries is Japan, which legalized casino gaming last year and is seen as a massive new market. Maddox repeatedly mentioned that 25 journalists from Japan will be coming to Everett to cover the casino later this month.

In response to questions from the press, Maddox looked down the road, discussing the potential of legalized sports betting in Massachusetts (“We would be ready to move forward if that opportunity exists”), to the prospect of further development in the next decade.


But, in the context of the company’s recently ended discussions about selling the casino to MGM Resorts, one reporter wondered about Wynn’s again trying to sell the property.

“Encore Boston Harbor is not for sale,” Maddox said to applause from Mayor Carlo DeMaria of Everett and local Encore executives, including president Robert DeSalvio.

The talks with MGM ended without a deal. In addition, John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox and the owner and publisher of The Boston Globe, backed by a group of potential investors, quietly investigated buying Encore in 2018 and again this year.

In a recent interview, DeSalvio mused about the possibilities for expansion in Everett.

“We’ve opened up the waterfront for the first time in 100 years,” he said. “I think there’s a great opportunity here to use this as a launchpad. This is a great opportunity for a business in America to change a neighborhood.”

He spoke about both the land the company owns, and some that it doesn’t.

“There are obviously some larger parcels that are not in our control, but I think over time, there’ll be more real estate that will become available,” he said.

Two big parcels nearby are an MBTA repair and maintenance facility next to Encore and the Exelon power plant across the street.

DeMaria, the mayor, mused about the MBTA property, hinting that it might become part of a high-end entertainment complex.


“This is just a catalyst of development,” he said of Encore. “You put a $2.6 billion casino resort and the MBTA facility starts to look like, oh boy, we have [18] acres of land here, this is becoming an undesirable place to operate an under-utilized machine shop, right? I think everyone’s looking at that.”

More broadly, DeMaria, who has been mayor for more than a decade, painted a picture of what he hoped would come in the next phase for this part of the city: lots of hotel rooms, funky outdoor spaces, little cafes, breweries, displays from artists — a place where a family could spend an afternoon with perhaps one parent in the resort.

The Everett native recalled the past, when there was a Monsanto factory where Encore now stands, spewing chemicals.

“We used to drive out of Everett and drive into Everett just smelling the sulphur — you would smell it!” he said, standing not far from the casino’s 900 trees and 100,000 plants, shrubs, and flowers. Now, “you smell the flowers, you smell the trees.”

The news conference with DeMaria and Wynn executives came after the casino wined and dined about 200 journalists, giving them a tour and a taste of the resort.

The two-hour tour offered a view of the casino, with its more than 3,000 slots whirring under red Venetian crystal chandeliers, ATMs close at hand. Its 143 table games and 88 poker games were idle, but will begin accepting bets on Sunday morning.


Reporters were whisked to a lavishly appointed top-floor suite, with its own private fitness room and a sweeping view of the Boston skyline. Tour guides gave journalists a peek into the nightclub, Memoire, filled with nearly $2 million worth of pulsing light and sound equipment, 20 VIP tables, and a cover charge of at least $40 for non-VIPs.

And the casino offered a look into several of the restaurants and bars on the property, including the craft beer pub, adorned with a listing of each local beer with its category, name, brewer, alcoholic content, and distance from Encore — “Saison, Working Class Hero, Cambridge Brewing Co., 4.5 percent, 2.4 miles.”

Then there was Mystique Asian Restaurant & Lounge, the 640-person venue which offers sushi, robata, and drinks from standards to more unfamiliar entries like Sir Inks a Lot, a combination of Grey Goose, Grey Goose Citron, cassis, lemongrass, yuzu, and Moët Impérial champagne.

Available to reporters after the tour was a spread of eggs, smoked salmon, white chocolate bread pudding, and pepper-crusted Angus New York steak.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.