Wynn Resorts faced harsh criticism from towns and cities in close proximity to Everett, where it proposed to establish a 1,000-seat entertainment venue, with local theater operators claiming that such a venue would seriously hurt their operations.
At a hearing that took place at the beginning of the week, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission heard the public feedback regarding the proposed Encore casino development project, which was revised from a previous version of the proposal that saw a separate public hearing held on February 10th.
At the hearing, the president of the Hanover Theater in Worcester, Troy Siebels, claimed that Encore is already trying to circumvent the limits on theater seats that are already set in the state’s casino law. Under the rules, casino operators are not allowed to establish an entertainment venue featuring from 1,000 to 3,500 seats. According to Mr. Siebels, placing about 2,000 seats in a big ballroom and offering tickets might not be legally categorized as building a theater, but everyone can see that such an establishment is not in the spirit of the Massachusetts laws.
The proposed Encore development project of Encore calls for 20,000 square feet to be used for hosting retail stores and restaurants, a 999-seat event room, and a parking garage featuring 2,300 spaces. The earlier proposal made by Wynn Resorts included a 1,800-seat venue but the number of seats was reduced in the revised proposal.
Theater Owners Claim Casino Operators Use Predatory Practices
At the latest hearing that took place at the beginning of the week, a few speakers shared their concerns with what they described as “predatory practices” used by larger nearby venues. As mentioned above, local theater operators claim they would be financially hurt by the establishment of such a project, as the casino profits of Encore provides its operator to offer lower ticket prices in comparison to the ones offered by smaller venues in the region.
Some legal representatives of local theaters went even further and noted that Wynn Resorts’ project does not violate the spirit of the law but the law itself. The attorney representing the city of Medford, Dan Rabinovitz, explained that Encore already violates the state casino statute by exceeding the seating limits for public venues and called for the Massachusetts gambling regulator to impose a fine on the casino or warn the operator for past violations.
So far, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has held a number of public hearings to determine whether the proposed Encore development project is part of the gambling establishment to find out whether or not it falls under the watchdog’s jurisdiction and regulatory oversight. One of the commissioners asked the interested parties to provide additional examples to prove the operator has used what they call predatory practices while breaching the state’s gambling legislation.
The representatives of Wynn Resorts did not attend the hearing. For the time being, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is still reviewing the proposal. The gambling watchdog is expected to announce a decision on the matter at its meeting on March 10th.