Encore Boston Harbor May Unfairly Compete with Smaller Theaters

Home » Encore Boston Harbor May Unfairly Compete with Smaller Theaters

Posted on: March 3, 2022, 03:33h. 

Last updated on: March 3, 2022, 01:55h.

Independent theaters located near Encore Boston Harbor are concerned about entertainment competition from the casino or at a proposed entertainment complex located near the Everett, Mass. venue. They say it could hurt their bottom line.

Members of the B-52s, pictured above. The Encore Boston Harbor was able to book the band over a local competing theater. The Encore paid the musicians three times what the Chevalier Theatre had planned to pay them. (Image: The B-52s)

The gaming property has already sold tickets to well-attended entertainment events. More performances are coming if the East of Broadway Development Project is constructed across the street from the casino. It would include performance space, retail stores, restaurants, and parking.

A casino like the Encore, which opened in June 2019 and is operated by Wynn Resorts, could subsidize ticket prices for performances due to its gaming revenue, representatives from the other theaters said. The smaller theaters do not have that option, reported WGBH, a local TV station.

A statewide leader in the arts community, Troy Siebels, president and CEO of The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory, located in Worcester, told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) on Monday the Encore is getting around restrictions on the number of seats allowed in venues under state casino regulations, WGBH said.

That law says gaming properties in the state cannot have an entertainment venue that has between 1,000 and 3,500 seats, he claimed, according to WGBH.

“Putting 2,000 chairs in a big ballroom and selling tickets might not be technically building a theater, but it’s pretty clear it’s not in the spirit of the legislation,” Siebels was quoted by the TV station.

Injunction Possible

Some of the nearby venues expressed concerns to the MGC, including The Cabot Theatre in Beverly which is located about 25 miles away from the Encore. Officials from the Chevalier Theatre in Medford also expressed concerns. The Chevalier is about five miles away.

Attorney Dan Rabinovitz, who represents the city of Medford, claimed the Encore provides more seats than allowed under the casino law.

That’s not a violation of the spirit of the law. That’s a violation of the law,” Rabinovitz told the MGC, WGBH reported.

He wants the MGC to either fine the Encore, or at least chastise it for alleged violations, the TV station said. He threatened to request an injunction from a judge against the Encore, WGBH added.

The MGC is still trying to figure out if the proposed entertainment complex would be considered legally an extension of the casino. If it is, it apparently would be under the commission’s jurisdiction.

Previously, casino officials claimed the entertainment complex would be made up of “non-gaming” structures, WGBH said. Legally, that means the new buildings are not an expansion of the gaming property, the report said. Competing theaters disagree.

“Part of our concern is that if it’s not really part of the gaming commission, there’s nothing that would preclude them from raising [the number of seats] back up to any number they want,” Ken Krause, a writer/editor who is also a board member of the Friends of Chevalier Auditorium, was quoted by WGBH.

Conflict of Intrest

One example presented to the MGC was in 2019 when the Encore held a performance by the B-52s. The Chevalier Theatre had tried to book the popular band, too.

The B-52s were all but signed to perform at the Chevalier theater in that year. Then the casino came along and offered the B-52s three times the amount that Chevalier theater was going to offer them to play,” Krause said.

Casey Cormier, event manager at the Cabot Theater, says he’s concerned about the Encore’s, or the proposed entertainment project’s, seating capacity.

“We are the smallest theater of our cohort, we’re at 850 seats. So, a venue of 999 seats or less would put us in direct competition,” Cormier was quoted by WGBH.

The MGC will resume discussions about the issue on March 10. Casino.org reached out to an Encore spokesperson for comment. There was no immediate statement.

Encore’s proposed entertainment complex would include a 999-seat auditorium. It was scaled down from a prior proposal, which sought a 1,800-seat venue. The complex would also have some 20,000 square feet for restaurants and retail stores, as well as a parking garage with 2,300 spaces. It would be accessed from the casino building through a pedestrian bridge.

Casinos Like Walmart

The Rev. Richard McGowan, a finance professor at Boston College who also closely follows the New England gambling sector, said the issues resemble when a business such as Walmart or Amazon makes it impossible for a smaller business to compete.

“In essence, Encore is acting like Walmart or Amazon. Local public policymakers have to determine whether to protect the local small businesses or do you allow the public a cheaper alternative,” McGowan told Casino.org. “The one difference here is the manner in which the gambling industry is so heavily regulated.”

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