Massachusetts Gaming Commission Clears Casinos of COVID-19 Restrictions Starting May 29

  • The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved the lifting of restrictions in a Wednesday vote
  • On May 29, the state’s three casinos can end capacity restrictions and social distancing rules
  • Casino operators intend to gradually lift restrictions while adhering to local health guidelines 
  • Massachusetts’ gaming revenue has seen an uptick in recent months, reaching $85m in April 
Encore Boston Harbor in Massachusetts
Encore Boston Harbor (pictured above), MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino can return to pre-pandemic conditions this Saturday after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission approved the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions at casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Good news for Massachusetts casinos

Casinos in Massachusetts will soon return to pre-pandemic conditions after getting the go-ahead from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC).

can remove all capacity restrictions, social distancing guidelines, and any limits on games

The MGC unanimously voted to rescind all limitations on Wednesday, authorizing casinos to reopen fully on May 29 at 12:01am. The state’s three casinos, including Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino, can remove all capacity restrictions, social distancing guidelines, and any limits on games.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein addressed the casinos after the vote. She said: “We really are hoping that this is, again, a sustainable re-opening for you all and we wish you the very best and wish all the patrons and employees much health and safety.”

Casinos propose their plans

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced earlier this month that the state expected to lift most COVID-19 restrictions on May 29. On Twitter this week, he confirmed that these plans would still go ahead, with the state reaching its goal for vaccinations:

Despite the governor approving the lifting of restrictions, gaming venues still fall under the purview of the commission in Massachusetts. As a result, casino operators met with the MGC on Wednesday to propose their reopening plans. All operators confirmed that they will continue to adhere to local health department guidelines, reporting any positive COVID-19 cases to the commission.

As reported by NBC Boston, Seth Stratton, vice president and general counsel of MGM Springfield, explained that the casino intends to gradually lift restrictions starting May 29. “We are looking for flexibility to phase out COVID-related restrictions as we deem fit consistent with state and federal guidance,” he commented.

Representatives from Plainridge and Encore mirrored Stratton’s comments, confirming that they will likely not take full advantage of the new allowances right away.

As per the new rules for Massachusetts casinos, the properties can return from 40% occupancy levels to 100%, introduce full seating for table games, remove plexiglass barriers, and allow fully vaccinated gamblers to play without masks.

Casinos continue their recovery

Massachusetts casinos have spent around 440 days under restrictions since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of strict occupancy limits and low traffic numbers, operators have struggled to mitigate losses incurred during an initial three-month period of closures from April to June last year.

The three properties experienced their best month since the beginning of the pandemic in April

That said, casinos in Massachusetts have seen an uptick in revenue over recent months as business returns. The three properties experienced their best month since the beginning of the pandemic in April this year, with gross gaming revenue totaling $85m. This represents an increase of 27% from February 2020.

Encore Boston Harbor generated more than half of the state’s gaming revenue in April, totaling $50.2m. Meanwhile, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino saw revenue of $21.9m and $12.5m respectively. Massachusetts took in a total of $24m in gaming tax for the month, the highest amount since before the pandemic.