The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) held a special meeting on Monday to get the public’s input on the proposed development in Everett on the Charlestown line by Encore Boston Harbor. Officials from Encore are before the MGC seeking a determination as to whether the new development across Broadway, with a pedestrian bridge to the Encore Casino, should be deemed part of the gaming establishment, which then would trigger regulation by the MGC.
Encore officials have resubmitted new plans for the development on lower Broadway with a smaller seating venue of 999 persons instead of the 1,800 originally submitted to the Everett Planning Board in January. Officials noted the many positives that the new pedestrian bridge will have on traffic flow and safety for pedestrians who have to cross the roadway by means of traffic lights.
The commissioners in their earlier February meeting kept probing where the pedestrian bridge would end and whether the users, particularly children, who would cross the bridge in order to get to the open green spaces outside of the casino could accidentally get onto the gaming floor.
Encore officials have noted that this scenario is highly-unlikely and are willing to add any safeguards to the exits that the MGC might require.
The public had until last Friday to submit written comments on the new project, with the public hearing for live testimony being held on Monday. A half-dozen speakers appeared before the MGC on Monday, and all voiced their opposition to the development without the MGC’s overview.
Troy Siebels from the Massachusetts Performing Arts Commission said, “To say the new theater is not part of the casino is not in the spirit of the current law.” However, he mentioned that the current plan that calls for the entertainment center to seat up to 999 patrons “is in legal compliance. The 999-person seating capacity will not impact our venues.”
Attorney Dan Rabinovitz, who represents the City of Medford, told the commissioners that presently Encore is using its ballroom with a 1,000-3,500-seat capacity for events such as concerts and boxing matches.
“Various events like fight nights take away from establishments like the Chevalier Theater in Medford that seats 1,850 persons,” said Rabinovitz.
After hearing from Rabinovitz, Commissioner Bradford Hill noted, “There are two issues before us. The first is what is happening currently and the second is oversight.”
Kenneth Krause, a member of the Friends of Chevalier Theater, noted how crucial the Chevalier is both economically and culturally to Medford. He said the new project should come under the purview of the MGC and feared that Encore might raise the seating capacity of their event center. He noted that pre-COVID, the Chevalier Theater housed 100 shows per year, and that there are about 100 shows booked for 2022.
Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn noted that Encore presently pays the Chevalier Theatre $100,000 to support the theater and pays the City of Medford $125,000 to its Community Fund. She noted that the proposed buildings with the bridge essentially will be attached to the casino.
Casey Soward from the Cabot Theater in Beverly said that he has the same concerns as the other speakers for his 850-seat theater.
Rep. Paul Donato of Medford noted that the new venue, with its acts and walkway to the Encore hotel-casino, should be considered as part of the casino.
The MGC now will deliberate on the matter. The MGC’s next meeting is set for March 10.