Competitive Edge:Wynn Boston Harbor Pushing for Special, Limited 4 A.M. Liquor License

By Seth Daniel

Citing the need to be competitive in a business with narrow margins, Wynn Boston Harbor is pushing strongly for a provision in the State Budget that would allow them to serve liquor on the gaming floor for an extra two hours at night – until 4 a.m.

A typical liquor license for most establishments in the state has a closing time of 2 a.m., and questions have been lingering for the past year or so as to how the state would handle the liquor license for Wynn – which is expected to be far more unique than most establishments.

Many ideas privately have been bantered around over the last several months, including the thought of allowing a special license only in the Lower Broadway area – which was nixed. Now, though, a concrete proposal has emerged in a quiet corner of the House’s version of the State Budget. That proposal would allow all casinos, including Wynn, to serve drinks until 4 a.m. only on the gaming floor and only to those who are actively gaming. That would mean two extra hours of serving, and then liquor would be cut off between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. – when a typical license allows one to begin. The measure passed the House, but it is still being reviewed with the entire State Budget in the State Senate – where there is some opposition, primarily by Senate President Stan Rosenberg.

The protections, Wynn officials and some state lawmakers believe, would protect the community of Everett from having other extended licenses, as Wynn would be the only one to qualify due to the gaming floor requirement.

Wynn officials said this week that they are pushing for the change in order to be more competitive on the Eastern seaboard.

“To maintain our commitment to the Commonwealth for job creation and taxes, we will need to attract tourists from across the country and around the globe,” said Michael Weaver of Wynn Resorts. “To do that, we must be allowed to meet widely held tourist expectations for a casino resort experience. Among those expectations is the option of enjoying a drink while they play in the casino. We will compete with resorts up and down the eastern seaboard and many of those resorts, such as Atlantic City and Maryland, offer 24-hour cocktail service. We believe extended cocktail service, in the highly controlled environment of the casino, is necessary to allow us to attract guests from our regional competitors and to meet international tourist expectations.”

Wynn Boston Harbor President Bob DeSalvio said it is important to note that the two-hour serving extension will apply only to active gamblers, and it will not be something that is available anywhere else.

“Wynn Boston Harbor will attract tourists from across the country and around the world who will expect a late-night casino resort experience,” he said. “…we support legislation that allows us to offer extended cocktail service in the highly controlled environment of the casino floor. It is important to note that extended service will be limited only to patrons who are actively engaged in gambling on the casino floor and will not apply to any other restaurants and lounges in our resort or in the City of Everett.”

Wynn officials also said that they do plan to have complimentary, or free, drink service on the gaming floor.

The measure would not have local control, as the state proposal would have such extended licenses doled out by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) and not the Everett License Board. The MGC would be able to grant such licenses, penalize those licenses or deny such licenses.

Still, City officials are interested in keeping close tabs on what happens with the Legislation within the Budget discussion, which will come to a head in June when the House and Senate begin joint conference sessions to work out common ground on the entire document – including the casino serving extension.

At that time, Everett’s State Sen. Sal DiDomenico will be key, holding a chairmanship position on that committee. DiDomenico could not immediately be reached for comment, but he is reportedly watching the measure closely.

City Councilor Michael McLaughlin, who represents the area where Wynn Boston Harbor is located, said he would be watching the final language closely, but also understands Wynn’s argument for competitiveness.

“I look forward to reviewing the final language if the opportunity to extend beverage service on the casino floor advances beyond the State House,” he said. “Wynn Resorts always promised to make Everett an international destination and I can see how extending these rules, but restricting them to casino players, will make this property more appealing…The key is to ensure that this extended service is restricted to only active players on the gaming floor and does not extend to other bars or nightclubs at Wynn or the city of Everett.”

The matter will likely be decided by early summer within the State Budget process.

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