Thousands turn out for grand opening of Encore Boston Harbor casino

Wynn Resorts expected 50,000 visitors Sunday.

Crowds of people lined up hours ahead of time to be the first to walk through the doors of Encore Boston Harbor in Everett. Some arrived as early as 3 a.m. to get into Massachusetts' newest casino.
Crowds of people lined up hours ahead of time to be the first to walk through the doors of Encore Boston Harbor in Everett. Some arrived as early as 3 a.m. to get into Massachusetts' newest casino. –Erin Clark for The Boston Globe

EVERETT, Mass. (AP) — Massachusetts’ third casino officially opened its doors near Boston on Sunday to thousands of patrons, including some who had lined up in the early morning hours to finally get their first look at the glitzy $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor facility after years of anticipation and controversy .

The crowd, which packed the pathways and harbor walk that surround the tree-lined, waterfront casino complex, cheered as dignitaries and a handful of the roughly 5,000 new workers participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony using oversized golden scissors. Puffs of brightly colored smoke could be seen for miles, shot into the air following a countdown. Wynn Resorts expected 50,000 visitors Sunday.

People filled the casino floor at Encore Boston Harbor during the grand opening. —Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
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The facility, which features a 671-room bronzed-toned hotel tower, a gambling floor with 3,100 slot machines and 231 table games, 15 bars and restaurants, shops, lavish art displays, sits on 33 acres of formerly industrial land along the Mystic River in Everett, Massachusetts. It was billed Sunday as opportunity to finally transform the reputation of a city of more than 46,000, just north of Boston.

“When you drive through Everett, you’ll no longer smell gas and sulfur and oils. But you’ll smell flowers and trees,” Mayor Carlo DeMaria told the enthusiastic crowd, which included many of his residents. “We will no longer be the back door to the city of Boston. We will now be the front door to the city of Everett.”

Emotional at times, DeMaria thanked his wife and family for supporting him throughout the challenging process of getting the casino complex built, which took more than seven years. The development project involved an environmental cleanup of a former chemical plant. The project has also been mired in controversy since Wynn Resorts won the lone state gambling license reserved for the wealthy and populous Boston area nearly five years ago. It’s the company’s first casino outside the gambling centers of Las Vegas and Macau.

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Matt Maddox, the CEO of Wynn Resorts, recalled standing with DeMaria about seven years ago on same site when there wasn’t a blade of grass.

“Now there’s a thousand mature trees, 50,000 flowering plants, tens of thousands of shrubs and a living shoreline for the first time in 100 hundred years,” said Maddox, who recently told The Associated Press he envisions Encore Boston Harbor becoming a template for the company’s future and the casino industry more broadly as Wynn Resorts continues to extend its reach to other cities.

DeMaria promised to continue efforts to redevelop Everett’s industrial waterfront area, including improvements to rail and water transportation.

“We’re going to take this Superfund site,” he said, referring to the federal program to clean up and redevelop contaminated land, “and make it a super site.”