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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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Top 10 observations of Encore Boston Harbor

19 Dec 2022

By Jarrod LeBlanc
They say if you love what you do, then it’s not work. Well, then I guess I hit the jackpot, literally (sort of) and figuratively in my new position as an Associate Editor at Casino City Press.
For those of you who haven’t seen my picture in the Guru’s section, I’m Jarrod LeBlanc. I’m returning back to my roots with this job as I have more than six years of experience as a writer and editor, mainly covering and writing about high school sports.

When I’m not working, I enjoy playing fantasy sports (my football team Chasin’ You is currently leading the league in scoring and I’m hoping to bring another title home), running (looking forward to running my second marathon next year), and spending time with my family (usually on the sidelines of one my boys’ soccer, football or baseball games).

While I’m not new to casinos or sports wagering, I now have a totally new perspective on a lot of things that I never thought much about before joining the Casino City Press staff back in September.

For instance, recently I had the opportunity to visit Encore Boston Harbor and today I’m going to share my Top 10 observations of the impressive casino resort as a newbie in the gaming industry.

10. Las Vegas-like
Having been to Las Vegas before, I can attest that even though a fellow southern state boasts “everything is bigger in Texas,” that everything is big in Vegas too. That’s what caught my attention immediately as I drove up to Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Massachusetts, just outside Boston city limits. I had seen the casino resort many times as I drove by it from the Zakim Bridge, but to be up close to a 3.1-million square foot resort was another thing altogether. Not only is the building huge, but the signs in front of the resort are also gigantic, and made me feel like I was back on the Strip.

9. Commemorative poker chips
Every month the Bay State casino unveils its commemorative chip of the month. This month’s chip displays Encore Boston Harbor as if it’s in a snow globe for the holidays. Various gourds graced the face of the November chip. Boston’s own Bruins took home the honors on the chips in October to commemorate start of the NHL season. The Patriots logo appeared on the September chip as the NFL season got underway. Now, I know that table games aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so if you are like me and just think that these are cool, then you can buy these commemorative chips at the cashier.

8. Shuttle service
If you’re a sports fan in Boston then you can’t help but be psyched that not only do the Celtics have almost the best record in the NBA, but also the aforementioned Bruins have the best record in the NHL. So, what’s a better way to celebrate your local team’s victories then to head over to Encore Boston Harbor and “hopefully” ride their success at the casino. Well, sports fans can do just that, and even better, they can do that courtesy of the casino. Back again this season, there is a free shuttle after Celtics and Bruins games on the corner of Causeway and Beverly Street where the home building of these two teams – TD Garden – is located, about three miles from the casino.

7. Table games
If you’re looking to take home, or better yet, cash in some of those commemorative chips then there are plenty of ways to do so at this casino as there are 185 table games. From poker to blackjack there’s something for everyone on the main floor. If you prefer or require games off the main floor then they offer private gambling rooms as well.

There is also a specific Poker Room located in The Loft, which is the casino’s newest gaming area located on the second floor. At the time of its opening this 23,000-square foot room with 88 poker tables – including a 16-table tournament room – was one of the largest in the world. Like most things during COVID-19, this room had to be reinvented, enter a new slots room. The poker room reopened earlier this year; however, there are significantly less poker tables.

6. Location
For years, Massachusetts residents longed for casino in their backyard. They got their wish in 1999 when Plainridge Park Casino opened in Plainville. In 2018, they got their wish again when MGM Springfield opened its doors as the state’s first full-blown casino resort venue.

However, a lot of Boston-area residents don’t even know where Plainville is, while the rest of us don’t want to make the 90-minute trek down the Mass Pike to Springfield. That’s why I’m sure when Encore Boston Harbor came onto the scene in 2019, it was a treat to all based on the rule of real estate. Location, location, location – is key, and you can’t beat the location of Encore regardless of where you live in Massachusetts. It also now offers free valet and self-parking options once you arrive at the resort, which wasn’t the case when the resort first opened.

5. Slots
If you’re into slots then you’ll notice right away that you hit the jackpot when you enter the main casino floor as there are over 2,700 slot machines.

It’s basically, pick your poison as there are reel slots, video slots, and video poker as well as electronic table games such as baccarat, blackjack and roulette. If you have a favorite, like I do, then it’s sure to be on the floor such Dancing Drums, Buffalo Diamond, 88 Fortunes, 777 Blazing, Buffalo Gold, and Fu Dao Le. On this day, I sat down at IGT’s Wheel of Fortune and proceeded to hit a jackpot, well not really a jackpot per say, but it was my goal to walk away with enough money for a free dinner and a new phone, and I accomplished my goal.

4. Night Shift Brewing Kitchen & Tap
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the hard alcohol and wine crowd, but if you ask me, you can’t go wrong with an IPA, and there are more than enough to choose from at Night Shift, which is located just off the casino floor. From single IPAs like limited release taps Owl’s Nest and Funk’d to something with a little more kick like double IPAs Sip of Sunshine and Pulp Daddy, there’s something for everyone. They also offer a large selection of non-IPAs on tap and in cans and bottles, as well as cocktails, mocktails, and wine. Plus, there’s solid tasty food options from appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

If that’s all not enough, another cool thing about this brewery is that it’s local. According to the company’s website three friends began homebrewing beer for their friends and family after their day jobs, so as a result of the process going late into the night, they referred to it as their “night shift.”

3. Restaurants
If you’re going to Encore, make sure you leave a lot of room in your stomach as again there’s something for whatever you’re craving that day. Rare Steakhouse for, well, you guessed it, Fratelli for Italian, Red 8 for Cantonese noodles and Hong-Kong style barbecue, Mystique for Asian, and On Deck for classic American options.

If you’re looking for quicker food choices like burgers and shakes or meatball subs and roast beef paninis, then you’re also in luck as Encore Boston Harbor is home to Shake Shack as well as Frank & Nick’s, which both opened when the resort introduced the WynnBET Sports Bar (more on that below). Frank & Nick’s actually is owned and operated by Frank DePasquale and Nick Varano, who also teamed up for Fratelli, which means “brothers” in Italian.

2. Sports viewing
Without even mentioning the top spot on this list, Encore is a great location to go to watch sports in between gambling. Whether you’re grabbing a drink at the center bar on the main casino floor or hitting Night Shift or On Deck for drink and bite to eat, there’s always multiple sports on the TVs. And if you’re like me then there’s nothing like watching sports with a bunch of people who can’t but help let their emotions show out loud when a play goes one way or the other. Then again, we’re all at a casino, so we probably all have some stake in the games even if it’s just through fantasy sports until gambling becomes legal in a little over a month.

1. WynnBET Sports Bar
This brings me to No. 1 on the list. The WynnBET Sports “Bar” ties everything that is great about Encore Boston Harbor into one location. To say the wall of televisions is massive is an understatement. Guests can watch sports in comfy seating on over 70 televisions, including a 10-foot high and 123-foot -long video wall. There are tons of local sports memorabilia to check out. Guests can order drinks from the bar and order food from Shake Shack as well as the second of Frank & Nick’s food stops within the casino.

And if that wasn’t enough, at the end of January, near the NFL Division playoff games, the idle sports-wagering windows at Wynn Sports Bar are expected to go live, after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously recently to approve Encore Boston Harbor as the first Category 1 sports wagering operator license in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This will be the appetizer for when online sports wagering is expected to launch in March.
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