by Associated Press | June 24, 2019
EVERETT, Mass. (AP) - Massachusetts' third casino officially opened its doors near Boston on Sunday to thousands of patrons, including some who had lined up in the early morning hours to finally get their first look at the glitzy $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor facility after years of anticipation and controversy.

The crowd, which packed the pathways and harbor walk that surround the tree-lined, waterfront casino complex, cheered as dignitaries and a handful of the roughly 5,000 new workers participated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony using oversized golden scissors. Puffs of brightly colored smoke could be seen for miles, shot into the air following a countdown. Wynn Resorts expected 50,000 visitors Sunday.

The facility, which features a 671-room bronzed-toned hotel tower, a gambling floor with 3,100 slot machines and 231 table games, 15 bars and restaurants, shops and lavish art displays, sits on 33 acres of formerly industrial land along the Mystic River in Everett, Mass. It was billed Sunday as an opportunity to finally transform the reputation of a city of more than 46,000, just north of Boston.

"When you drive through Everett, you'll no longer smell gas and sulfur and oils. But you'll smell flowers and trees," Mayor Carlo DeMaria told the enthusiastic crowd, which included many of his residents. "We will no longer be the back door to the city of Boston. We will now be the front door to the city of Everett."

Emotional at times, DeMaria thanked his wife and family for supporting him throughout the challenging process of getting the casino complex built, which took more than seven years. The development project involved an environmental cleanup of a former chemical plant. The project has also been mired in controversy since Wynn Resorts won the lone state gambling license reserved for the wealthy and populous Boston area nearly five years ago.

Casino regulators in Massachusetts and Nevada hit Wynn Resorts with $55 million in fines and other penalties after determining officials failed to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Steve Wynn, the company's founder. Wynn has denied the misconduct allegations but resigned as CEO last year. And the company, weeks before opening, negotiated to sell the Everett casino to MGM, but those talks ended amid public criticism.

However, Matt Maddox, the new CEO of Wynn Resorts, recently told the Associated Press that "the controversy is behind us" and "our eyes are on the future." The Everett facility is the company's first casino outside the gambling centers of Las Vegas and Macau.

Glenn Reynolds, 65, of Quincy, was so excited about the new casino that he arrived 17 hours before the doors opened so he could be first in line. He spent much of the time waving to drivers and giving interviews to reporters. He told that he has waited for hours outside Fenway Park on opening day as well. But for this occasion, he brought a homemade sign with the words "Encore" and "Great!" with an American flag sticker. "With [Encore], when I saw it, I said 'I'm going to take it up a notch,'" Reynolds said. "I'm going to make a nice sign, come here and enjoy this casino."

During the speaking part of the ceremony, Maddox recalled standing with DeMaria about seven years ago on the property when there wasn't a blade of grass. "Now there's a thousand mature trees, 50,000 flowering plants, tens of thousands of shrubs and a living shoreline for the first time in 100 hundred years," said Maddox, who told AP he envisions Encore Boston Harbor becoming a template for the company's future and the casino industry more broadly as Wynn Resorts continues to extend its reach to other cities.

DeMaria promised to continue efforts to redevelop Everett's industrial waterfront area, including improvements to rail and water transportation. "We're going to take this Superfund site," he said, referring to the federal program to clean up and redevelop contaminated land, "and make it a super site."