California and Massachusetts Among the Latest States to Resume Casino Business

  • Both states recently lifted a range of COVID-19 restrictions, allowing some return to normality
  • Massachusetts’ three casinos will all operate on a 24-hour basis by January 29
  • Only California casinos with outdoor card table facilities can operate for now
  • Pending public health orders, Los Angeles casinos could remain open 24 hours starting Friday
  • MA resumed “late night business” on Monday at 25% capacity as the stay-at-home curfew ended
poker player lifts two Ace cards
Casinos in California and Massachusetts are looking forward to resuming 24-hour operations after COVID-19 restrictions were eased in the two states. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

States easing back on COVID-19 curbs

Casinos in California and Massachusetts are resuming some business after both states lifted a range of COVID-19 restrictions. They follow Pennsylvania’s lead after casinos in the Keystone State reopened January 4 at 50% capacity.

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office tweeted on Monday about the easing of stay-at-home restrictions statewide:

However, gamblers based in the Golden State will need to stick to card games alfresco, as only card rooms with outdoor seating can reopen for now. According to the Los Angeles Times, card rooms can resume operations immediately at 50% capacity, while businesses with outdoor facilities will reopen January 29.

Meanwhile, Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park – two of Massachusetts’ three casinos – are set to reopen on a 24-hour basis today. MassLive reports that MGM Springfield will return to round-the-clock operations this Friday.

California’s fledgling outdoor card culture returns

News that California’s poker rooms can reopen, albeit outdoors and at 50% capacity, comes as welcome news for many of the state’s casinos and other affected businesses that remained shuttered for the past two months. A new health order expected January 29 will allow outdoor establishments to open for 24 hours, pending approval by the California Department of Public Health.

Some California card rooms set up outdoor tents with card tables last year as a way of getting around the first wave of COVID-19 shutdowns.

A stop on the World Poker Tour, The Bicycle Hotel and Casino in California’s Bell Gardens, posted a tweet featuring its opening hours, subject to the official go-ahead:

Republican Supervisor Kathryn Barger expressed her support in following Gov. Newsom’s recommended guidelines. She added that California must balance public health with “devastating social, emotional and economic impacts of this virus.”

Good news in the east

Over in the east, casinos and other businesses are also celebrating a return to some operational normality, after Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker lifted significant restrictions. The state first introduced the 10pm to 5am stay-at-home curfew back in early November 2020.

Since Monday, Bay State businesses including casinos, bars, restaurants, and liquor stores could remain open past 9:30pm at 25% capacity. For the hospitality industry, being able to extend opening hours is key.

In a report by CBS Boston, Jeff Baird, owner of The White Bull Tavern near Faneuil Hall, expressed his excitement at the return of “late night business”. He said the state’s stay-at-home curfew hurt more than capacity mandates, explaining that “about 75% of our business was from nine o’clock on.”