At the last Council meeting on Monday, April 22, Mayor Carlo DeMaria was invited to speak at length about issues relating to the imminent casino opening, including what will happen to City’s funding in the event that it does not open for its June 23 deadline.
The Encore casino has been the subject of negative publicity in recent months following the ouster of its CEO due to sexual misconduct allegations. The drama has called into question whether or not Wynn Resorts, which owns Encore, is suitable to receive a gaming license, a matter that is currently under review by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). This uncertainty has caused speculation around whether or not the casino will be up and running by its proposed opening date, or whether legal obstacles will push it back.
Officially, Encore has maintained that it will be opening on time, which is in late June.
Councilor Michael Marchese questioned whether any potential delay in the opening could negatively impact the City’s overall budget due to the lack of projected revenue. He cited as reasons for a delay the turmoil at Encore following the recent poor press, and the fact that eight weeks out from the projected opening, the casino is still in the process of hiring and training staff.
“It could open in August or September,” said Councilor Marchese. “It’s worrisome.”
However, Mayor Carlo DeMaria assured the Council that the City’s budget would not be affected due to a delayed opening.
“None of the revenues from the resort are included in this year’s budget,” he said.
“I’m glad to hear you’re not budgeting for the casino until it’s in the door,” said Councilor Peter Napolitano. “If you’re not banking for the money while you’re creating the budget, then any money coming in becomes gravy.”
The Mayor also gave an update on the projected first-year earnings of the casino: $30 million in taxes, $10 million from the parking lot, an estimated $10-12 million in food and hotel taxes, totaling $50 million in revenue for the City during Encore’s first year. He mentioned that 200-300 Everett residents had already been hired by the casino.
“The state of Massachuetts can’t afford for this facility to not open, and open on time,” the mayor continued. “I feel confident that it will open in June. They are continually working, hiring, and getting that facility open.”
Councilor Napolitano mentioned that when the revenue does start flowing in, he’d like to see it go to tax breaks for local small businesses.
“Our commercial side needs some relief,” he said. “The small sole proprietor[s], struggling to keep their doors open.”
“Everett has been screwed out of these deals for decades,” he continued. “We’re due. We’re overdue.”
•Parking/Traffic Plan Update
Councilor Napolitano also brought up the ongoing concern about the increase in city parking and traffic caused by the upcoming influx of tourists from around the state and region.
The last time this was discussed at the March 27 Council Meeting, where Councilors heard from the City’s Chief of Staff, the Everett Police Sergeant and the City’s Transportation Planner, councilors were less than impressed with what the City had planned so far to address the issue.
“Our body has been asking repeatedly for information around traffic,” said Councilor Napolitano. “It’s going to affect the whole city.”
He also mentioned that he felt that there was an overreliance upon Encore to mitigate potential congestion problems.
Mayor DeMaria echoed what his colleagues had said at the March 27 meeting.
“They have a good, solid plan,” he said. “They’ll be on the hook for a long time to keep the traffic flowing. There’s a lot of good stuff happening.”
The Mayor also mentioned his plan to develop a rapid transit system, which would encourage fewer cars to be on the road.
Councilor Wayne Matewsky’s concern about the casino was on a more personal level. He expressed a dissatisfaction with the “lack of consideration” on the part of Encore due to the fact that he and other Council members had not been personally invited to tour the facility.
“I find it offensive. I’m really disappointed with their public relations,” he said. “We’re the City government. I went to every hearing. I voted in favor of the casino. I want to be involved and I feel that I’m not.”
Councilor Matewsky also said the elected officials of Somerville had been involved with the development, and that he felt that Everett had been left out of the equation.
“In any other city you’d be treated with a little more respect,” he said. “Maybe the mayor can talk to these people. It’s ridiculous.”
When Councilor Matewsky found out at the meeting from a colleague that the Council was invited to tour the facility on May 4, he wondered why he was only just hearing about it. Councilor Matewsky had previously visited the facility after requesting a tour for himself and several other councilors, but expected more deference on the part of the casino’s owners.
“It’s a heavily regulated industry,” said Mayor DeMaria. “I feel your pain.”