Boston reports moderate traffic from Encore opening

No headcount yet on the number of casino visitors

A BIG CROWD turned out for the opening of Encore Boston Harbor on Sunday, but there is no official word yet on how attendance matched up against the casino’s prediction of roughly 50,000 visitors.

At noon Sunday, which was about two hours after the doors to the 24/7 gambling establishment opened to the public for the first time, there were roughly 5,000 people standing in line waiting to get in, according to Wynn Resorts spokesman Michael Weaver.

But Weaver on Monday did not provide a total headcount for the day, nor information about whether the on-site and nearby parking facilities were filled to capacity.

Late Sunday morning, a line of people snaked around the riverside promenade of the Everett resort. The line appeared to be hundreds of feet long and several yards wide, but in the period right after the casino opened, it moved relatively briskly – the pace of a slow stroll.

The casino is close to Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood, and Boston’s Transportation Department found that traffic on Sunday was moderate with no significant problems to report, according to a city spokesperson.

The city of Somerville, whose mayor Joe Curtatone sued to try to block the gambling palace, has collected baseline data on traffic and crashes on streets in the neighborhoods near the casino in recent years, but on Monday the city did not have analysis about whether the first day of Encore business had any significant traffic impact.

At Sullivan Square right across the Mystic River from the $2.6 billion casino, the roads leading into the rotary are typically jammed on weekdays during rush hour, but at various points during the day on Sunday they were relatively clear.

“The Highway Operations Center reports that from the standpoint of MassDOT, traffic in the area of the casino on Sunday, June 23, remained manageable with no major congestion issues,” the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said in a statement on Monday evening.

Encore Boston Harbor President Bob DeSalvio said the casino would spend $1 million on a marketing program to encourage visitors to take other forms of transportation aside from driving to the casino, and Encore has also invested in a fleet of buses and boats to ferry people to and from the resort, and has also provided subsidies for nearby roads and transit.

Tom Philbin, a spokesman for the city of Everett, said he thinks the “vast majority” of Sunday’s visitors took transit. The city, sandwiched between Malden and Chelsea, has no subway or commuter rail stops of its own, but there are some nearby and it has pioneered the use of bus-only travel lanes to speed public transit commutes.

While Wynn Resorts didn’t provide much hard data on the number of visitors to its newest property on Sunday, Weaver said the company was pleased with the turnout and reported the facility was able to handle the crowds.

“We were able to accommodate all guests inside Encore by 2:30 p.m. and had steady visitation throughout the afternoon and evening,” Weaver said on Monday. “We are very pleased with our visitation thus far and the overwhelmingly positive response we’ve received from guests about the Encore experience.”

On July 15 the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will offer another indication about the popularity of Encore in its first week of operation. That day the state’s gambling regulators will publicize the first revenue report on Encore Boston Harbor, covering the period from June 23-30.

In a little over one week of operation starting last August, MGM Springfield – the state’s first casino located in the state’s third-largest city – brought in $9.4 million in gross gaming revenue on $72.6 million in bets. In September, MGM’s first full month of operation, the casino took in $26.9 million, mostly from slots.

Touted as the state’s largest single-phase construction project, Encore Boston Harbor has ample space for gambling.

There are 206,474 square feet of gaming floor area, according to a spreadsheet provided by the Gaming Commission a few weeks before the casino’s opening. For comparison, the hangar-like Boston Convention and Exhibition Center advertises “516,000 square-feet of column-free, contiguous exhibit space.” MGM Springfield has 125,000 square feet of gaming space, according to the Gaming Commission.