To entice customers, Encore discounts trips to casino

Free buses for loyalty members, practically free ferry rides

SINCE ITS JUNE OPENING, Encore Boston Harbor has slashed the cost of travel to the Everett casino, first offering free parking and now adding free bus service to some and steeply discounted boat travel to all.

At the same time, the casino has lagged behind in its revenue projections, putting it on pace to reach $600 million in gross gaming revenue in its first full year of operation, a far cry from its $1 billion goal. The moves announced Monday appear designed to entice more gamblers to the $2.6 billion Wynn Resorts development on the banks of the Mystic River.

While the change has been in the works for some time, the new free bus and expanded ferry service was the first big announcement by Encore President Brian Gullbrants, who was promoted to the top position last week, replacing Robert DeSalvio.

“Due to the incredible success we’ve seen with our free self-parking, we have decided to expand our complimentary offerings to our mass transit options as well,” Gullbrants said in a statement Monday. “We hope this continues to show our patrons how thankful we are to be Greater Boston’s hometown casino.”

Customers who sign up for Wynn’s Red Card loyalty program will now be able to take free buses to the casino to and from three Massachusetts locations – Millbury, Rockland, and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough –as well as Londonderry, New Hampshire. Seats aren’t guaranteed for travelers taking advantage of the complimentary bus service. Red Card members who want to reserve will need to pay the regular $7 fare.

When it first opened, Encore offered its own maritime travel service for $7 each way to and from the casino’s pier on the Mystic River to locations in Boston on the harbor. On Monday, Encore announced it would add new ferry service to East Boston, and deeply discount travel aboard its fleet of vessels, which look more like sleek motor yachts than traditional ferries.

The cost of traveling to the casino will remain $7, but patrons will receive a $7 food and beverage credit in exchange, and the boat trip back from the casino will be free of charge. So for anyone planning to dine at the casino, the boat trip there and back would be essentially free.

The new East Boston stop will pick up near The Eddy, a luxury housing development that advertises studio apartments starting at $2,000 per month. With the addition of the East Boston stop, Encore’s boats will run along two routes every 30 to 35 minutes rather than the one route with service every 20 to 30 minutes. Heading into the colder months, the ferry service will also start a couple hours later in the day, with the first runs setting off at 11:45 a.m. and at noon.

The casino transformed a polluted empty lot into a major destination, but the resulting traffic that residents of Charlestown feared hasn’t quite materialized.

However, Rosie Salisbury, a spokesperson for Encore, said the free parking incentive has been successful, and the gambling giant plans to offer more perks for customers enrolled in its loyalty program.

Meet the Author

Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

“We saw an overwhelmingly positive response when we implemented free self-parking to our guests and made the decision to expand the complimentary offering to our other mass transit options,” Salisbury said by email. “The water taxi is an important component to our traffic mitigation plan, so we adjusted rates to meet the demand of our guests.  The complimentary motor coach offering to our Red Card members is just another great perk of being a player at Encore and we will continually roll out exclusive benefits to these members.”

Encore is required to report its gross gambling revenue figures to the state – which takes a 25 percent cut – but the casino has been more veiled about the actual attendance at the resort, which is the second casino in Massachusetts and the first in the Boston area.