The state’s second resort casino opens Sunday in Everett, a much-hyped and very visible structure to anyone commuting from the north into Boston.
Encore Boston Harbor, owned by Wynn Resorts, anticipates 20,000 to 30,000 visitors Sunday, with around 23,000 on average through the course of a week. The state’s highway administrator, Jonathan Gulliver, noted the company said in a recent meeting with state and local officials the casino could see 100,000 visitors on opening day this Sunday, and 50,000 a day, on average, for the first month.
However the traffic flow shakes out, the opening will be crowded for this casino, which is second to the MGM Springfield in the resort category. The Plainridge slot parlor in Plainville rounds out the trio of gambling sites in the Bay State. Branches of the Wampanoag Indian tribe also are proposing gaming parlors on Martha’s Vineyard and in Taunton, but both are on the drawing board.
Massachusetts came late to legalized gambling, well behind Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and the Godzilla of gambling, New York, which has more than two dozen casinos and “racinos” run privately and by Indian tribes.
Drowning out those who have voiced concern about the danger of increased gambling addiction in Massachusetts, the cheering by local officials in Everett and surrounding communities will probably be bolstered by state officials who see big revenue gains promised from taxes Encore Boston will pay.
At least in the early stages, casino gambling does pay off for the state, if not the gamblers. MassLive reported this week the MGM Springfield notched gross gambling revenue of nearly $22.3 million in May, a hike of about 2% from the $21.8 million reported in April. The state’s tax collection from the gross revenue was $5.5 million in May, according to MassLive.
The gross monthly revenue is behind predictions made before the Springfield venue opened last year, but the numbers still are significant. Since MGM Springfield opened in August the casino has paid $53 million to the state, which taxes a quarter of the gross gambling revenue.
Plainridge, with slot machines but no gaming tables, is taxed on 49% of its gross gaming revenue, with 82 percent of the levy going to local aid and 18 percent to a fund set up to support the struggling horse racing industry, according to a report in Banker & Tradesman. In its most recent report, the state Gaming Commission said the state was entitled to $5.9 million of Plainridge’s May revenue that goes to local aid, and another $1.3 million for the Race Horse Development Fund.
And now comes Encore Boston to seriously ramp up potential state tax revenue. State officials project $98 million of gambling tax revenue from Encore in the fiscal year beginning July 1, according to reporting by WBUR. That projection figures the casino will reap about $32.7 million per month in gross gambling revenue — an amount separate from room and meals taxes and payroll taxes from such a big enterprise.
This casino is a big deal for local communities, too, with around $25 million expected to be paid to Everett each year, $2 million to Boston and lesser amounts to neighbors Malden, Medford, Chelsea, Somerville and Cambridge. The construction and outfitting of the property has employed thousands of people, and the casino operators expect to hire as many as 5,500 full- and part-time workers.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation predicts $294 million in gaming revenue for the state, overall, in fiscal 2020, which begins a week after Encore Boston opens.
In a story about the foundation’s report on gambling revenue, State House News Service reported that the Taxpayers Foundation sees this latest evolution of gambling in Massachusetts as a key time “for a fresh look at the allocation of gaming revenue in the commonwealth’s budget.”
Casino gambling is here to stay, and a fresh analysis of how the state should spend the money is warranted in line with the long and detailed process it took to approve legalized gambling.