Encore Boston Harbor

Wynn Resorts May Sell Encore Boston Harbor to MGM Resorts

Two major casino operators said Friday they were in preliminary talks about the possible sale of one of the largest casinos in the Northeast.

Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International said in a joint statement they've engaged in conversations about the potential sale of Encore Boston Harbor.

This comes as Wynn is about to open the $2.6 billion Everett, Massachusetts, casino. The companies say the talks won't delay the Everett opening scheduled for next month.

MGM currently owns a casino in Springfield and would not be allowed to operate two in Massachusetts.

State gambling regulators last month levied a $35 million fine on Wynn Resorts but let Wynn keep its casino license after finding executives failed to disclose allegations of sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn.

It also levied another $500,000 fine on new CEO Matthew Maddox.

The companies said any talks are still in the early stages.

"Over the past several weeks, we have engaged in conversations around the potential sale of Encore Boston Harbor," the companies said in the statement. "They are very preliminary and of the nature that publicly traded corporations like ours often engage in, and in fact when opportunities such as this are presented, we are required to explore. We cannot say today where these conversations will lead, however we can reaffirm our commitment to the communities where we operate today."

The companies added that the conversations "will not impact the jobs at our facilities and will not impact the opening of Encore Boston Harbor."

The Encore Boston Harbor resort has been slated to open June 23, although company officials have said that could be pushed back by a week or two.

In its investigation, Massachusetts Gaming Commission focused on how long Wynn officials were aware of the allegations against Steve Wynn and how they responded, rather than the truth behind the claims.

Steve Wynn, who resigned as CEO last year, has denied the allegations.

After the fine was announced, Wynn Resorts issued a statement saying "our company is now focused on a successful launch of Encore Boston Harbor."

The fine was the biggest imposed by any state casino regulatory agency, commission staff and industry experts said. The Nevada Gaming Commission in February levied a $20 million fine on Wynn Resorts that was the largest imposed at the time, they said.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which regulates casino gambling, had no immediate comment on the talks between the two companies.

Elaine Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in a statement the agency said its written decision following the Wynn investigation stands.

"The deadline for fine payment and notice of appeal is May 31. The MGC continues to focus its efforts on the significant amount of regulatory preparations required before Encore's opening," Driscoll said.

The 2011 state law that authorized up to three resort casinos in Massachusetts prohibits companies from holding more than one casino license, so MGM would not be permitted to operate both the Springfield and Boston Harbor facilities.

The law does contemplate the possibility of a license transfer and provides guidance for how one might occur, but such a process would likely be complicated and perhaps lengthy, according to gambling regulators.

As host communities for the casinos, Springfield and Everett would also likely have a say in any negotiations surrounding new licensees for the casino.

MGM's Springfield casino, hotel, entertainment and shopping complex opened last August near the Connecticut state line and reported one million visitors in its first six weeks — generating more than $36 million in gambling revenues, translating to about $9 million in tax revenues for the state, which collects 25 percent of casino gambling revenues.

As of March, the state had collected about $42 million in taxes from the casino.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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