The Massachusetts Gaming Commission heard arguments for and against a 13-acre, $1.7 billion expansion of Encore Boston Harbor but took no formal action Tuesday.
Proponents of the expansion cite more high-paying jobs and additional tax revenue that would be generated, while opponents said Wynn Resorts Ltd. has not lived up to its commitments of new jobs since Encore first opened in June 2019, that traffic and the need for police services have increased and that taxes have gone up, not down since the property opened.
The East of Broadway development project — across the street from Encore Boston Harbor — is expected to include 20,000 square feet of restaurant space, a sports wagering facility, a dedicated poker room, a live entertainment venue and nightclub, a 2,200-space parking garage and a 400-foot elevated pedestrian bridge connecting the new facility with the existing casino.
A second phase of the project would include the construction of two hotels, one with 500 rooms and a second with 300 rooms. Each hotel would include ballrooms, restaurants, retail areas and garages with 450 spaces.
Commissioners are trying to determine whether the new facility needs a separate gaming license because of the placement of a poker room and sports book.
The entertainment venue is a point of contention because Massachusetts gaming laws prohibit casinos from building theaters with 1,000 to 3,500 seats as a means of protecting the existing performing arts industry. Wynn initially envisioned an 1,800-seat theater, but has scaled it back to 999 seats to conform with the law.
Municipalities surrounding Everett, where the resort is located, have signed off on the expansion as required by state law.
But some opponents addressing the commission Tuesday said they’d like the project to be delayed until at least November so that a referendum on permitting the expansion could occur in the general election. Some on Tuesday, including Everett City Councilor Darren Cota, said they wanted the city to renegotiate its host agreement with Wynn in light of the expansion plan.
Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said the commission would evaluate public comments at future meetings.
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