Massachusetts Puts Drive-Thru Kentucky Derby Betting Into Gear

Posted on August 27, 2020

Plainridge Park is a hotspot for horse racing fans every year during the sport’s biggest day, and that could be the case again this year despite the altered format. On Thursday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) approved a plan for drive-thru Kentucky Derby betting.

Under the plan, Massachusetts bettors will be able to place their wagers without exiting their vehicles as a COVID-19 precaution. The commission showed how seriously it takes those protocols in another way during the meeting as well.

Details on drive-thru Kentucky Derby betting

While the Plainridge Park slot parlor will have indoor betting windows open on Saturday, Sept. 5, it came up with this solution to maximize its potential for revenue, while doing the utmost to keep everyone safe.

Steve O’Toole, director of racing for Plainridge Park, was on the call with commission members Thursday.

O’Toole explained the layout of the new initiative. In addition to multiple outdoor walk-up betting “windows,” the casino would have two tellers with “walkabout” machines for drive-thru customers.

Those machines feature a console that fits on the tellers’ wrists and a printer that affixes to their bodies as well. Customers can drive up, place their cash bets, and get their tickets.

O’Toole indicated they would require bettors to wear face masks properly even though they are in their vehicles. The same mask requirement will apply to walk-up customers as well.

He also stressed that the machines they plan to use, manufactured by Sportech, already have approval from the MGC. Plainridge’s ask was more about getting approval for taking wagers in the parking lot.

After discussion, the commission voted 5-0 to approve the plans. Commission members also pointed out, however, that Massachusetts law does allow for online betting on horse racing after proper registration.

O’Toole spoke to that, stating that Plainridge normally sees a surge of people wagering on races that only do so on Kentucky Derby day each year. That segment of the customer base, he stated, doesn’t have the proper registration to wager online.

O’Toole said the casino won’t allow more than 300 people inside the facility at one time. Indoor capacity in regard to a casino was also the subject of discussion earlier in the MGC’s meeting.

MGC also rules on Encore Boston Harbor suite party

Earlier in Thursday’s meeting, commission members also discussed an incident from Sunday, Aug. 16. The event took place in a suite at Encore Boston Harbor.

One guest in the hotel held a party in his suite early that morning. When hotel staff investigated, they discovered over 110 people in the suite. Additionally, Encore stated that few were wearing masks.

After local law enforcement received a call from an anonymous person, they broke up the party at approximately 3 a.m. on Aug. 16. The person to whom the suite was registered received a disorderly conduct charge and will face a $500 fine.

Encore might face consequences from the incident as well. It tried to head that off, however, by submitting a plan to avoid another similar incident to the commission last Friday.

Among other items, the casino said it will bring back additional staff off furloughs to patrol hotel floors more regularly. Encore also shared a plan to levy a private “fine” against future violators of capacity regulations.

It’s likely that the casino will follow through on its claims. Encore and MGM Springfield are trying to get the commission to allow them to resume offering table games.

Incidents of non-compliance with existing restrictions hurt their campaign for loosening those restrictions. The commission did speak positively of Encore’s response to this situation during the meeting, however.

In the midst of a pandemic, it’s creative solutions like this and the one from Plainridge Park that will allow casinos to survive.

For now, horse racing fans in Massachusetts have a safe alternative to place their Kentucky Derby bets this year, as patrons await updates on other restrictions.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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