Massachusetts Still Working on Casino Reopening Plan

  • Massachusetts Gaming Commission met on June 11 to discuss guidelines for reopening casinos
  • No decisions were made during the meeting; some clarifications are needed from state officials
  • Investigations and Enforcement Bureau wants casinos to work with health experts on their plans
  • Casinos would have to send plans to the Gaming Commission at least one week before reopening
Encore Boston Harbor sign with casino in the background
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission met on June 11 to discuss potential plans for reopening the state’s three casinos. [Image:]

Update: The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved on June 23 detailed guidelines for the reopening of the state’s three gambling facilities. The commissioners agreed on minimum requirements with regard to cleaning and sanitization practices, social distancing, guest screening, occupancy limits, reporting, and other key measures.

Each casino must now submit its detailed reopening plan at least 7 days in advance. All three licensees will also need to ensure social distancing at slot machines by placing slots a minimum of six feet apart or installing six-feet-high plexiglass dividers. The commission decided against the resumption of poker, craps, or roulette games until further notice.

Gaming Commission meets

Massachusetts gaming regulators are still trying to determine what health and safety protocols will be put into place once the state’s casinos reopen in order to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus. No official reopening date has been set; local media outlets report that June 29 is a possibility. On Thursday, staff from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission presented three separate sets of minimum guidelines in a commission meeting.

Some of the key aspects of these guidelines include hygiene, reporting, and social distancing measures:

No decisions made

While no decisions were made by the commission during the Thursday meeting, all of the members agreed that masks should be mandatory at the casinos. This is in line with Governor Charlie Baker’s orders. Further discussion is still needed about whether exceptions can be made to this rule, such as when someone is drinking or eating. 

Commission members also agreed that hand sanitizer should be available at all casino entrances, but not everyone thought that the casino should encourage all players to use it. A number of key points need to be clarified with the state and no guidelines will be released until all of these issues have been resolved. 

Health is top priority

With many casinos across the country reopening in recent weeks, the gaming commission has been looking at these plans to try figure out the best course of action. 

recommending that each casino be required to work alongside an epidemiologist or public health expert

The state’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau is recommending that each casino be required to work alongside an epidemiologist or public health expert to create a detailed reopening plan. The plan would be sent to the Gaming Commission for review at least one week before the property plans to reopen. 

The steps outlined in such a plan would have to be compliant with the latest guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, orders from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, and whatever guidelines are ultimately agreed upon by the gaming commission. 

State easing mitigation restrictions

Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and the Plainridge Park Casino have all been closed since March 15 because of the coronavirus pandemic; the original closure was extended in May. The casinos have already said that they will need two weeks to implement health and safety measures before they reopen. 

Massachusetts entered Phase 2 of its reopening process on June 8, with Phase 3 expected to start in about two weeks. As of Friday, there have been more than 105,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, with over 7,500 deaths.

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