Live Poker Returning to Massachusetts for the First Time Since Pre-Pandemic

  • The MGM Springfield casino poker room is reopening on Friday at 11am
  • There will be 13 poker tables playable in the poker room, with nine players allowed per table
  • Encore Boston Harbor has not yet announced if it will reopen its poker room
  • Gaming revenue figures are now better than pre-pandemic levels in Massachusetts
Pocket Aces
MGM Springfield is reopening its poker room on Friday morning for the first time since March 2020. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A long-awaited reopening

The poker room at the MGM Springfield casino is set to open for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The poker room is opening its doors again at 11am on Friday and will be open every day between 11am and 3am.  

Initially, there will be 13 poker tables in operation for cash games, with each table being able to cater to up to nine players. Pre-pandemic, there were usually 28 poker tables in operation at the property. For the moment, it will be the sole casino in the state that will be offering poker. MGM Springfield is committed to making sure that both the casino workers and patrons are kept safe with the reopening of the poker room.

waited for this day for more than a year and a half”

Speaking about the reopening was MGM Springfield COO and president Chris Kelley, who said: “MGM Springfield is thrilled to reopen our Poker Room. We are looking forward to welcoming back our loyal players and dozens of employees who have waited for this day for more than a year and a half.”

Sole poker room in operation

MGM Springfield revealed a few weeks ago that it was planning to reopen its poker room on October 29. It comes about five months after the ending of the last major restrictions from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC). At the time the restrictions were lifted, MGM Springfield claimed that staff shortages were a reason for not immediately reopening its poker room. It has gone on a hiring spree in recent weeks, however, hiring new poker dealers and a new poker manager.

Gaming officials will be closely watching to see how popular poker will be upon its return to Massachusetts. The other major casino resort in the state that had a poker room pre-pandemic, Encore Boston Harbor, has not yet announced when or if it will reopen its poker room.

In July, many people submitted complaints to the MGC over the lack of live poker games at the state’s casinos. The following month, MGM Springfield confirmed that it planned to reopen its poker room before the end of 2021. Encore Boston Harbor stated that it would make a decision on how it would proceed before the end of the year. It said that certain table games would have to close if poker made a reappearance at the facility.

Gaming revenue recovering

It appears that gaming revenue is getting back to and even surpassing pre-pandemic levels in Massachusetts. According to the latest MGC figures, MGM Springfield had gross gaming revenue (GGR) in September from table games and slots of $19.4m. That was a 10.2% rise year-on-year, but a drop of about 11% from August 2021. In September 2019, GGR at the casino was $20.2m, about $800,000 more than last month’s take.

Encore Boston Harbor generated $57.5m in GGR, a 25.2% year-on-year increase, while Plainridge Park Casino had $12m in GGR, a 4.2% rise from September 2020. Total GGR in Massachusetts last month was about $89m, up from the $80m generated in September 2019. It was also the third-best month for the state in terms of gaming tax revenue, as it collected about $25.1m.