Encore Prepares for Re-opening, but Will Furlough 3,000

Encore Boston Harbor shared some good news and some bad news on Monday afternoon – stating they would look to begin re-opening procedures no sooner than July 6, but also that they would have to furlough up to 3,000 employees to be able to open this summer.

The news comes just one week after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted 5-0 on June 23 to accept the opening procedures for its casino licensees, including Encore. Casinos in Massachusetts will be opening in Phase 3 of Gov. Charlie Baker’s re-opening plan, and that will come no sooner than July 6. The casino plans to re-open the casino gaming floor, and supporting food and beverage outlets around the casino – though both will be at a much smaller capacity due to social distancing restrictions.

There will be no craps games, roulette games, poker games, poker rooms, and the numbers of slots will be reduced. While about 1,500 to 2,000 workers on the rolls will return for trainings and guidelines about opening that portion of the casino resort, another 3,000 will have to be furloughed.

“Pending final approval, Encore Boston Harbor plans to re-open the casino gaming area and supporting food and beverage outlets around the casino,” read a statement from the casino. “It also plans to open the hotel on a limited basis. When it re-opens, Encore Boston Harbor will bring back its employees in a thoughtful and measured protocol. Some employees working in the re-opened amenities and restaurants will return to work. Employees, who worked in areas for which a re-opening date is uncertain due to current restrictions, are being placed on furlough until further notice.”

Already, approximately 11 percent of the Encore workforce had been placed on furlough June 1. Prior to that – since the voluntary closing of the resort on March 15, Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox had made the decision to continue paying all employees and tipped employees. That was extended through the end of May, though properties at Las Vegas and Macau opened to the public and Encore Boston Harbor remained closed.

Encore had come up with an extensive health and safety program in May that was developed in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University – and was also used at their other properties. Encore said it would use that as a road map, as well as the new guidelines from the MGC passed last week.

“In addition to the previously released Health and Safety Program, Encore Boston Harbor supports and will adhere to the additional directives aimed to reduce the risk to public health set forth by the MGC, including reductions in available gaming capacity,” read the statement. “As a result, the resort will re-open with amenities appropriate to the new rules and in support of the anticipated number of guests.”

The gaming industry has been a big question mark as COVID-19 restrictions lift and operators from China to Las Vegas to Everett wonder if customers will return in the numbers that were previously hosted. This has been often pondered in Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings from Wynn Resorts over the several months.

Encore officials said while many employees will be furloughed, it doesn’t mean their jobs are lost. They will be brought back thoughtfully, he said, as time goes by and restaurants, nightclubs and the full hotel can open.

Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he had confidence the casino would make good in rehiring all of the furloughed employees once the casino is up and running – and more areas are safe to open to the public.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Encore has made a good-faith effort to keep employees on the payroll with full benefits,” he said. “While it is unfortunate that they have to furlough many employees because they have generated zero revenue, I’m optimistic that once the casino re-opens they will be rehired.”

City Councilor Michael McLaughlin – who represents the area – said it shows no one, not even Encore, is immune to COVID-19.

“Hearing that 3,000 of those long promised and dreamed of careers have been furloughed is not pleasant news,” he said. “The time is now to stand up and work together to help regain our careers and businesses that call Everett home. I am sure for the 3,000 workers furloughed this week this news doesn’t come lightly to you and your families. I hope that we all can come together to support the families across our region that have negatively been hurt by this unfortunate situation.”

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