How a New Boston Casino Is Making Amends with $10 Million in Local Gifts

Encore Resort casino under construction. Alexander Rodas/shutterstock

Encore Resort casino under construction. Alexander Rodas/shutterstock

New casinos are often the focal points of controversy, and the Encore Boston Harbor is certain no exception. This past February, the CEO and chairman of Wynn Resorts, Steve Wynn, resigned after sexual harassment allegations. More recently, a $3 billion lawsuit was filed against Wynn Resorts with claims that the luxury brand "conspired to fix the application process, circumvent laws in place to prevent the infiltration of mob elements, and interfere and eliminate various regulations aimed at protecting the public at large." Other allegations brought by Sterling Suffolk Racecourse claim that Wynn built on dangerous toxic waste sites. Meanwhile, the new $2.6 billion local resort in Boston dropped “Wynn” from its name and goes by “Encore Boston Harbor” to distance itself from the drama.

“There’s cultural sensitivity here in Massachusetts, and we recognize it,” said Wynn Resorts’ new CEO, Matt Maddox. “We realized we had to quickly distance ourselves from issues that had mired the company.”

What does all of this have to do with philanthropy?

Well, it certainly seems like an ideal time to smooth things over with the locals and get some good PR before Boston’s first five-star urban gaming resort opens to the public. And that’s exactly what Encore Boston Harbor did last month.

The towering resort along the Mystic River in suburban Everett committed $10 million to support local nonprofits and improve Boston-area communities. Encore’s millions will be disbursed over the next four years to support a range of civic institutions and social problems.

To be fair, it should be noted that this isn’t Encore Boston Harbor’s first foray into local philanthropy. It also recently announced its lead sponsor role for a partnership between the Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Beyond this, Encore’s corporate giving includes past grants to the New England Center for Arts and Technology, Boston Pops, and other area groups.

But the $10 million is a more substantial effort. To guide this process, Encore teamed up with Jack Connors Jr., a prominent Boston civic leader who provides business support services through his Connors Family Office. Connors has been impressed with Encore Boston Harbor’s initial efforts to make a positive impact on the local community, and sees it poised to make a difference with the organizations here. To figure out where those funds should go and when, Encore Boston Harbor and the Connors Family Office are developing an advisory committee. Major interests are at-risk youth education, building vibrant communities, and cultural enrichment.

Wynn CEO Maddox said:

It’s not in our corporate DNA to just write a check for a donation or buy a table at a charity event. We want to make an impactful difference in the lives of people and effect real and positive changes in our communities. We believe committing $10 million and teaming with the Connors Family Office will go a long way towards realizing our goal.

We’ll be interested to see which local groups in town receive grants, and how it keeps up with charitable giving after opening its doors to the public. All of this giving and community involvement is leading up to the official opening of the Encore Boston Harbor resort, which is scheduled for June 2019. In addition to the casino, it will feature a public waterfront park, boat dock, water shuttle, restaurant and retail spaces, a spa, underground parking garage, and views of the Boston skyline.