MA Casinos Can Keep The Party Going Until 4 AM With New Liquor Laws

Posted on July 21, 2017

[toc]Massachusetts isn’t a “dry” state. However, if you want a drink after 2 a.m., you’re pretty much out of luck. In most parts of the state, last call is at 1 a.m. Thanks to a provision in the latest fiscal budget, there will very likely be two places that serve alcoholic beverages after 2 a.m. in the not too distant future: the state’s casinos.

Because of that provision, when MGM Springfield opens in 2018 and Wynn Boston Harbor opens in 2019 they’ll be capable of procuring a liquor license from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. That license will allow them to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.

There is a mandated four-hour blackout period from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. The extended hours doesn’t apply to the sale of beverages at restaurants or bars inside the casino. In fact, the sale or distribution is restricted to “patrons who are actively engaged in gambling.”

Per the fiscal budget:

“Notwithstanding any general or special law or regulation to the contrary, in issuing a gaming beverage license pursuant to section 26 of chapter 23K of the General Laws, the Massachusetts gaming commission shall describe the scope of the particular license and any restrictions and limitations, provided, however, that a gaming beverage license may permit the sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages beyond the hour of 2 a.m. only to patrons who are actively engaged in gambling as defined in section 2 of said chapter 23K; and provided, further, that a gaming beverage license shall not permit the sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages between the hours of 4 a.m. and 8 a.m.”

Another reason to go to MA instead of CT

The decision to extend alcohol service hours will give Massachusetts casinos a leg up on their closest competitors in Connecticut. Both Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods stop alcohol service at 2 a.m.

A  spokesman for the Massachusetts House’s budget-writing committee told MassLive.com as much. He said the provision is designed to “help maximize the potential of the gaming industry in Massachusetts” and “ensure competitiveness.”

Of course, the move by Massachusetts may spur on a similar change to hours of alcohol service in Connecticut.

MGC can deny request

The state is allowing casinos to serve alcohol after 2 a.m. However, the MGC will determine a casino’s liquor hours on a case-by-case basis.

“If a licensee makes a request to extend drinking hours pursuant to the amended statute, the Commission would expect to conduct an extended public discussion on the issue and hear from a full range of constituencies, but at this point no such request has been made,” Massachusetts Gaming Commission Communications Director Elaine Driscoll told WWLP 22 News.

MGM Springfield plans to file such a request. The casino is hoping to serve alcohol from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. as well as offer comp drinks on the gaming floor.

Also speaking to WWLP, MGM Springfield spokesperson Carole Brennan said:

“MGM Springfield is evaluating the opportunity for extended alcohol hours provided by the Legislature. We would work with the City of Springfield and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to advance a policy that ensures MGM Springfield’s successful operation for both the community and our guests.”

Some casinos may not apply for extended liquor hours

Plainridge Park Casino is a slots parlor located in Plainville, Massachusetts. It is also the only casino currently open in Massachusetts. The casino reached an agreement with the town that it would stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m. That puts the casino in the same boat as the town’s other establishments. Nonetheless, state law permits some establishments in Plainridge to serve until 2 a.m.

According to the Attleboro Sun Chronicle, Plainridge Park reached the agreement after Plainville Police Chief James Alfred raised concerns that local bar goers might flock to Plainridge during the 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. hour to get another drink or two before heading home.

Plainridge Casino says it has no interest in changing its agreement with the town, even though it would now be able to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.

Alfred did say that resort casinos are a different ball of wax. After all, people tend to stay on site and aren’t drinking and driving. Whereas the Plainridge Casino doesn’t have a hotel, so pretty much every customer gets in their car and drives home.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve Ruddock is a veteran of the poker media, contributing to offline and online publications centered on the regulated US online gambling industry. These include OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com as well as USA Today. Steve is based in Massachusetts and is also a poker player.

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