Mr. and Mrs. Swellesley aren’t the gambling types. But it seemed like a safe bet that a visit to the Encore Boston Harbor casino & resort, along with our of-age Swellesley Jr., might be a fun outing on a Saturday featuring temps in the teens.
Getting to and from Everett, where the casino sits among smokestacks and the Boston Harbor, took less than 45 minutes at 11:30am and 3:30pm in what turned out to be a 5-hour adventure overall. Self-parking is free and easy in a garage that connects to the resort and casino.
We decided to take a pre-lunch noonish stroll around the facility, skipping the outdoor harbor walk on this frigid day. The main casino floor sparkles with hundreds and hundreds of slot machines surrounded by table games like roulette and blackjack, all illuminated by red lantern chandeliers. A decent, largely middle-aged crowd filled slot machine seats and circled gaming tables, though many of both were inactive as well.
Mrs. Swellesley commented that the Encore seemed to be catering to our demographic. I wasn’t so sure, based on the easy listening music selection, from Christopher Cross to Sade to James Taylor, being piped into the casino.
The smoke-free gaming floor smells good. It’s bordered by some of Encore’s 15 restaurants, including the roughly $40-per-person Buffet, which looks as if its whimsical decor was ripped off a Tournament of Roses Parade float.
We ducked off the casino floor to explore the shops (window shopping only for us at the Wynn Collection), where winners might be tempted to splurge. We also took obligatory photos of the bejeweled and flower-covered carousel in the hotel lobby and seemingly random $28 million Jeff Koons sculpture of Popeye the sailor.
We didn’t get a peek at the Encore’s entertainment venues, which include big-name DJs and performers such as recent Masked Singer winner Wayne Brady.
On our way back into the casino we were stopped by a security employee who shared his life story about growing up in Nepal and serving in the military in the Middle East. He urged Swellesley Jr., to listen to his parents, then sent us on our way. The Encore staff was friendly all around, though it did feel like we were being watched by a million eyes. One craps table had at least 4 employees working it.
Eating it up
We perused menus at old-timey Sinatra, a steakhouse called Rare with $200-plus Wagyu steaks, and an Oyster Bar offering a dozen oysters for $36.
We’d decided ahead of time we’d hit the On Deck Burger Bar, a Boston sports-theme eatery conceived by the Vegas crowd.
Tables are ringed by TVs, a couple of which were showing the awkward Red Sox Winter Weekend event (post-manager firing) at the casino in Springfield. I consumed my first Impossible Burger and it was tasty, as it should have been for $20 sans a side (the waiter felt compelled to explain it was plant-based, not giving me any credit for cultural awareness). My dining partners had a chicken sandwich with guac on a pretzel bun and a loaded cheeseburger, with a side of fries for the table. We all enjoyed our food, as we double and triple checked our strategy for not losing a boatload when we headed back to the casino floor for real.
Last of the high rollers
The casino features bill breaking machines and ATMs for your spending convenience. You bring your cash money to the machines or tables to play, and you can convert your winnings if you have any at a cashier station before you go. Encore will encourage you to sign up for a free Red Card to earn benefits, from game credits to dining dollars.
We started at slots, with a Playboy-themed machine proving friendliest. A Walking Dead slots machine slaughtered my $5 in an instant. A server offered complimentary drinks, but we declined, wanting to have all of our wits about us for what would come next.
A craps table also made quick work of us, with Swellesley Jr., explaining that we weren’t committed enough to do well there. An animated customer slapping $100s on the table looked to be on a roll, celebrating and arm pumping over “a hard 10” (two 5s on the dice) rolled by a fellow player.
I’d studied up the night before on YouTube to make my debut playing the classy card game called Baccarat, which had me at “no skill required.” But Encore lost me with its $50 minimums on those tables, and we turned our attention to the roulette wheels, another game for the skill-less.
There, we boldly plunked down our money for a few stacks of $5 chips. We immediately tripled our stake thanks to 36 black, but dribbled our winnings back to the house within a dozen or so more more spins. A friendly man and woman at the table looked to be hunkering down, with the man dramatically flipping a chip onto the table every so often with good results. We slinked away with our original wager in hand.
As we were leaving, it occurred to me that we hadn’t run across anyone we knew or recognized from Wellesley, as we always seem to whenever we’re on adventures. Then again, we didn’t venture into the High Limit Play section…