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Jarrod LeBlanc

Jarrod serves as Casino City's associate editor and helps produce and edit all of our weekly newsletters, as well as the GPWA Times Magazine.

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Encore Boston Harbor primed for Massachusetts sports betting launch

27 Jan 2023

By Jarrod LeBlanc
For New England sports bettors it’s felt like running a marathon to be able to place a legal wager in their backyard. However, for the staffs at Encore Boston Harbor just outside of the Boston city limits, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville it’s felt more like a mad dash.

Regardless of what camp you reside in though, the finish line is finally in sight as retail sports betting in Massachusetts opens for business on Tuesday, 31 January at all three locations, just in time for the Super Bowl on 12 February. Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield will start allowing the public to place sports bets at 10 a.m., while Plainridge Park Casino won’t start until 1.30 p.m.

Mobile sports betting is expected to launch by the time the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament known as March Madness tips off in late March with 11 different operators getting ready to make their apps available within state lines.

The Casino City Times team received a behind-the-scenes tour at Encore Boston Harbor on Wednesday and here’s what you can expect.

Located in the heart of the main casino floor, WynnBet Sportsbook, which opened as WynnBet Sports Bar in September 2021 is definitely the big draw for sports betting at Encore. There are not only 10 windows from which bettors can walk up to and place their sports wagers between the hours of 8 a.m. until midnight, but there is also comfy seating and over 70 televisions, including a 10-foot high and 123-foot-long video wall, on which locals can watch how their bets play out.

“This is for Boston," said Jenny Holaday, President of Encore Boston. “This place is for us… I really think there’s going to be such a sense of camaraderie. When there’s a game going on now, and it’s one of our teams. Can you imagine if the Bruins keep going? Or, if the Celtics make it to the Finals again? And, you come and watch it here. Like you’re going to know everybody. That’s us.”

Whereas some casinos across the country only have their main sportsbook, which can cause a bottleneck, Encore Boston Harbor is taking sports betting to a new level, actually multiple levels of the casino, to be precise.

President of Encore Boston Harbor Jenny Holaday poses in front of the WynnBet Sportsbook.

President of Encore Boston Harbor Jenny Holaday poses in front of the WynnBet Sportsbook. (photo by Gary Trask)

In addition to the WynnBet Sportsbook, there are 120 kiosks strategically placed throughout the casino grounds. There are, however, three main rooms of the kiosks as the folks at Encore Boston Harbor want to make sure it caters to all type of bettors.

Upon entrance from the main lobby, guests can take less than 30 steps to the right and there sits the main WynnBet Kiosk Room, which houses 32 machines. And while, anyone can place their bets in this room, it’s kind of being billed as the more experienced sports bettors’ room.

The other main room, which holds 22 kiosks, sits on the second floor of the casino. And, again, while anyone can place a sports wager in this room, it’s being looked at as the novice bettors’ room, where casino ambassadors will be available to help teach players how to use the kiosks and place a bet.

So, what’s to stop a bottleneck from forming in either of these two rooms? Don’t worry, Encore Boston Harbor thought of that too. Enter BYOD, also known as Bring Your Own Device.

BYOD allows bettors to create any type of sports bet on their personal mobile device. From there they can save or copy the generated bet slip QR code and upon entrance into Encore, they can scan it at any WynnBet Sports Kiosk on either of the casino floors 24/7. The QR code will instantly bring up their desired wager on the kiosk screen and allow bettors to finalize their bets. BYOD is only available for pre-match only wagers.

“The closest thing you can get to what’s going to happen here was Detroit, because they’re a Big Four sports town like us, and retail launched there about two months before mobile,” said Holaday. “So, we did a little orientation trip there to see what was happening. And the thing that we saw was experienced bettors obviously would be in front of the kiosk, and here’s this slip of paper, and they’re entering their bet, and they’re like obviously entering three, five, six, 10 bets. So being able to build all of that in advance, and just scan and go, to be home.

“Conversely for brand new bettors, it's very jargony. I want to do a parlay. I want to cover the spread, plus two. And, I want to add a teaser. So, some people don’t even know what that means. So, if you think craps is intimidating. So, for new players, it’s a great way to familiarize yourself, without feeling like, you’re getting yelled at by the other bettors in line, while you’re familiarizing yourself. We’re going to have little business cards that have it all explained, so new players can take their time.”

The third room of kiosks will be known as the WynnBet Express Sportsbook, and it is truly a one-of-a-kind experience as it sits on the B1 level of the North parking garage. Sports bettors will be able to drive up and park in one of the designated 49 spots for a maximum of 15 minutes while they pop into the room and place their bets on one of the 20 WynnBet Sports Kiosks. So, whether bettors are on their way to a Super Bowl party or to-and-from work, they can either place their bet from start-to-finish on the kiosk in person or utilize the BYOD option on these kiosks. The WynnBet Express Sportsbook will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.

“I don’t think I’ve seen that anywhere,” Holaday said about the WynnBet Express Sportsbook. “Our inspiration was someone said, ‘too bad we can’t have drive-through sports betting.’ And, I’m like, wait a minute … Casinos, sometimes sportsbooks, have a rush before work and after work. So, we knew about that, and express betting will be a nice feature to offer to our customers.”

All of this only became possible after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously in December to approve Encore Boston Harboras the first Category 1 sports wagering operator license in the Commonwealth. It’s this same MGC that Encore Boston Harbor is currently working with to build another site that includes a parking garage, sports bar/sportsbook, poker room, nightclub, a roof deck, theater, and comedy club, in the parking lot across the street from its current location at 1 Broadway.

“So, assuming we pass all of our permitting, we hope to have a shovel in the ground this June,” Holaday said. “We have a beautiful sportsbook here for a city that has over 4 million people who are over the age of 21. So, if we get what we are petitioning to have across the street, also being designated as gaming space, and if we pass that hurdle, there will be a second sportsbook over there. We won’t close this one. We will need two for Boston. It will probably be about the same size. The difference over there is right now the plan is for the food and beverage to be integrated into the room. Here we took advantage of having food outlets flank us, but it will all be part of one. It will be like the ultimate sports bar/sportsbook.”

As for Tuesday’s festivities at Encore Boston Harbor, who better to kick off the sports wagering in Massachusetts than the folks of the Bay State. Thirty-two lucky guests will be chosen to place their historic bets in the WynnBet Kiosk Room at 10 a.m.

At 10:30 a.m. all guests will get to see Boston championship-winning athletes and Massachusetts representatives such as Shawn Thornton, Ty Law, Matt Light, Cedric Maxwell, Eddie House, Johnny Damon, Angela Ruggiero and Massachusetts Speaker Ronald Mariano and Representatives Jerald Parisella and Aaron Michelitz simultaneously place the first bets at the 10 windows located inside the WynnBet Sportsbook.

Legendary sportscaster and Boston’s own Sean McDonough, who’s currently working at ESPN as well as local sports radio station WEEI, will emcee the event, which will also include opportunities for guests to get their pictures taken with the professional championship trophies.

Then at 6 p.m. former New England Patriot Super Bowl champion and WynnBet brand ambassador Julian Edelman will make his own “significant” bet at the WynnBet Sportsbook.

When asked about the process from beginning to end to make this day a reality, Holaday summed it up perfectly as she said with a laugh, “When I say it’s been a sprint, it’s been a sprint. People should have bet on us.”

Tuesday, 31 January the residents of Massachusetts can finally place their sports bets on their favorite teams at Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville without having to leave the Bay State again.

“I’m excited on a number of levels,” Holaday said. “I think it’s going to be great for the city. It’s just part of our community here. It’s probably the number one thing that people like to do socially, and being able to place a wager on it just changes the entire experience. And so, I think it’s going to be great… And, for us we’re really luck that ours happens to be inside a five-star resort.”

And in the not-too-distant future, Massachusetts will be launching online sports betting with an expected date of March.

When asked if there’s a benefit to starting land-based sports wagering before online, Holaday said, “Absolutely. Especially, when it’s brand new to a market… So, I think having an existing licensee, easy to get to, you can touch and feel and see it all, which you can’t as easily on mobile, is a great way for all of us to get comfortable with how it’ll work.”
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