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Traffic top of mind for Encore Boston Harbor opening

Encore Boston Harbor executives say they’re nearly ready for the doors to their new $2.6 billion resort to open and have developed a plan to deal with potential opening-day traffic.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission staff has completed the installation and inspection of the property’s 3,158 slot machines, 143 table games and 88 poker tables, and commissioners went through the final checklist Wednesday leading up to the June 23 event, a Sunday.

Encore Boston Harbor President Robert DeSalvio told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that Wynn Resorts Ltd. executives chose a Sunday-morning opening because that is when area streets and highways are least busy.

The company has spent more than $1 million just in transportation marketing and advertising messages it has planned for the week leading up to the opening.

Resort officials are encouraging visitors to the property not to arrive by car. Encore advertising is educating prospective visitors about public transportation, pedestrian and bicycle corridors, and the company’s own shuttle buses and motor coaches, and two different types of harbor shuttles.

Commissioners dedicated nearly its entire agenda to the Encore opening in what is expected to be the last meeting before dice are rolled by the public and slot machine reels spin. Commissioners voted unanimously to approve Encore’s regional marketing and tourism plan.

Traffic plan

It’s the second major commercial resort to open in Massachusetts, but Encore Boston Harbor is unusual in that it is the first to be plopped into the center of a major city.

MGM Resorts International opened MGM Springfield in August in downtown Springfield, a city of just over 150,000 residents.

The Massachusetts location in Everett, a Boston suburb, meant that Wynn officials have had to work since around February with several political subdivisions in the Boston area to develop an opening plan.

Company officials said when Encore Boston Harbor opens, it will rely on 84 Massachusetts State Police troopers, more than 58 officers representing the police departments of Boston, Everett, Chelsea, Malden and Medford.

Because Encore will have boat access from Boston Harbor, resort executives also are coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard and marine units from Boston, Everett and the state.

The MassDOT Highway Division and the transportation departments of Boston and Everett also were consulted, and regional highway signs have been placed on major roads and highways surrounding Encore.

Executives also are anticipating a long queue of visitors to get into the property on opening day, and the company plans to have water and snack stations set up for those waiting in line.

“By going at 10 a.m., we were trying to think about the heat of the day,” DeSalvio told commissioners. “We wanted the opening to occur in the morning so that if people were going to line up, it would be early in the morning before it got too hot. We’re trying to be cognizant of public safety in particular.”

Stringent requirements

It was a long road for Wynn Resorts to open its Massachusetts resort. Regulators determined in April that the company would be allowed to keep its gaming license after a yearlong investigation into how executives responded to allegations of sexual misconduct by former Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn. He has denied all harassment accusations.

The company was allowed to keep its license but was fined a record $35 million, and CEO Matt Maddox was individually fined $500,000 and ordered to have a monitor selected by the commission and paid for by the company to oversee his efforts.

Massachusetts requirements are far more detailed than in most jurisdictions, addressing specific characteristics of many nongaming amenities. Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said she recognized that the state’s requirements are stringent, but because they are — and because Encore has followed them — everything is in place for a successful opening.

“This is a very complex statute that we follow, the expectations are very high,” Judd-Stein said. “Welcome to Massachusetts.”

She applauded “a very significant collaboration” between Encore and the regulator.

“We are now in a situation where there’s substantial compliance and we’re at very low risk at this time,” she said.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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