Poker Finally Returning to Massachusetts Casinos Post-Pandemic

  • MGM Springfield plans to reopen its poker room on October 29
  • The casino has been on a hiring spree, including hiring a new poker manager and dealers
  • Encore Boston Harbor has not indicated when or if it plans to reopen its poker room
  • Casinos could restart poker games in May, but they cited staff shortages for not reopening
Poker pocket Aces
MGM Springfield casino resort is reopening its poker room on October 29 for the first time since March 2020. [Image:]

A long time coming

Nearly five months after the majority of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) pandemic restrictions on casinos and slots parlors were lifted, the poker action is finally set to get somewhat back to normal in the state. MGM Springfield casino resort plans to reopen its poker room on October 29. This will be the first time poker games will take place at the facility since March 2020.

The casino hosted a significant hiring event last week and has offered 60 people jobs. In addition to hiring a new poker manager, the casino resort has also been getting poker dealers on board.

casinos in the state had been dealing with staff shortages

Casinos in the state had been dealing with staff shortages in the weeks following the rollback of pandemic restrictions, negatively impacting some gaming offerings. There has been, though, a steady stream of new hires at the state’s three casinos recently.

Not the full complement of tables

MGM Springfield will reportedly have between ten and a dozen poker tables playable initially, down from 28 tables pre-pandemic. The MGC commissioners will receive information at the next commission meeting on the impact the reintroduction of poker games will have on casino jobs.

Events will also soon be returning to the convention center at the property in Springfield. A local indoor mask mandate remains in place since September 13. Despite MGM Springfield committing to reintroducing poker in the coming weeks, there is no word yet from Encore Boston Harbor casino resort that it will follow suit.

Pandemic-related struggles

When MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor were able to reopen in July 2020 after the initial pandemic closures, poker was not one of the permitted games. The casinos did not put a request in with the MGC about restarting poker games at the time. Instead, they prioritized relaunching casino games like roulette and craps.

It was toward the end of May 2021 that the restrictions on the state’s casinos were fully lifted. However, the two casinos did not commit at the time to instantly restarting poker operations, citing staff shortages as one of the reasons.

In July, a significant number of people complained to the MGC about the casinos not offering poker. MGM Springfield committed in August to reintroducing poker games before the end of the year. Encore Boston Harbor had said at the time that it would decide before the close of 2021. It stated that other table games would likely have to close if poker was to return.

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