Poker, craps and roulette still off limits at Massachusetts casinos

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
Encore crushes local rivals

Doors were shut at casinos in Massachusetts for almost four months before reopening last month with a series of restrictions.

Milford Daily News reports that some games won’t return, despite the casinos reopening.

Roulette will not return to the state’s three casinos in the immediate future, nor will craps or poker, after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission declined to expand the slate of games offered during the limited-scope reopening that has been underway for weeks.

Two casinos, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, had asked the commission to authorise craps and roulette, but the commissioners agreed that now is not the time to do so given the current public health landscape and a recent uptick in COVID-19 transmission.

“In light of some of the increase in COVID things at this time, we didn’t feel it was appropriate to add new games, so we’re going to continue reviewing this and keeping an eye on the COVID numbers and consider that at a later date, MGC Investigations and Enforcement Bureau assistant director Bruce Band said.

Under revised plans to reopen, poker, craps and roulette were not allowed, while casinos were instructed to space out or separate which slot machines are used and cap blackjack style tables at three players maximum.

Two of the casinos sought permission to bring craps and roulette back on board.

“We developed prototypes that would allow those games to be played. That said, we are following the directives of the state,” Encore spokesman Eric Kraus said.

“What we want to do, at the appropriate time following the state’s lead, is to offer the full compliment of gaming options for our guests.”

MGM Springfield spokesperson Jocelyn Kelly said the casino “appreciates the Gaming Commission’s thoughtful consideration and will continue to work collaboratively to determine when it’s appropriate to offer more amenities to our guests.”

Neither casino estimated how much the absence of craps and roulette would affect business or the revenue they direct to the state.

In a related decision last Thursday, Mr Band told the Gaming Commission that poker will not return to casinos for the foreseeable future.

Other jurisdictions have allowed full poker tables to operate, which Mr Band described as “not what I would consider a safe situation for the employees or players.”

Gaming Commission staff determined that local casinos would need to limit poker to four people per table to adhere to social distancing requirements.

“In discussions with the industry, that just would not make poker profitable for them at all to have as a game, so at this juncture, we are not going to be instituting poker until a time when we could have more players at the table and do it safely,” Mr Band said.

Commission staff reported that the reopening process continues to run smoothly in its fifth week.

Patrons appear to be complying with the face covering and distancing requirements, and no major issues have been reported.

All three licensed facilities – Encore, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino – have seen crowd sizes well within constrained limits the commission said.

Encore to stop paying part-time workers

Recently opened Encore Boston Harbour says it will stop paying approximately 850 part-time workers after Sunday, May 31, furloughing more than 10 per cent of its overall staff.

Casino.org reported in May the $2.6 billion was forced to close on March 15, less than a year after it opened in June, 2019.

Encore Boston Harbour public affairs spokesperson Eric Kraus says the property has about 4200 part-time and full-time workers.

Wynn Resorts has been paying its workers company-wide during the shutdown of its casinos in Las Vegas, Massachusetts and Macau.

The company says it will have paid employees $220 million through the end of the month.

Commercial casinos are beginning to reopen in certain states in the United States.

Gaming floors are back open in Mississippi, Louisiana and South Dakota.

Tribal casinos, free to rebuff state closures of non-essential businesses, are open in numerous other states, including Florida, Arizona, Oklahoma, Washington and California.

According to the American Gaming Association’s casino tracker tool, there are currently 225 commercial and tribal casinos open.

The map shows that 764 remain closed.

Massachusetts’ three commercial casinos – Encore, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park – could be some of the last gaming properties to reopen in the United States.

Massachusetts has been one of the hardest hit states by the coronavirus, with 94,895 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6640 deaths.

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