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Massachusetts Casinos Close Down Temporarily Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

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Encore Boston Harbor casino open closed

Regular patrons of Massachusetts casinos got an assist in their efforts to avoid public places over the weekend. All three gambling facilities in the state closed their doors to the public.

Although the facilities only committed to closing for the next two weeks, the future is still in doubt. It could be months before they allow guests to return.

Massachusetts casinos close down to clean up

Over the next two weeks, Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park will engage their workforces in deep-cleaning their facilities. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission issued a statement Sunday.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the decision was made in collaboration and cooperation with our licensees to safeguard the health and well-being of casino guests, employees, and regulators. As we all continue to navigate this unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation, our agency and our licensees will remain in close consultation with public health authorities and government officials to determine safe protocols for resuming operation. As we develop the appropriate course of action, we will keep you informed of next steps.

Wynn Resorts, which owns Encore, has announced it will pay all full-time employees their regular rates during the closure. MGM has pledged to do the same for its workers nationwide.

The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all scheduled gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks be canceled or postponed. If the casinos follow that guidance, they won’t be open until sometime in May.

It’s possible that recommendation could get extended beyond the eight-week period. Additionally, the state might not give the casinos a choice in the matter.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has banned all gatherings of 25 people or more through April 6. The order from Baker includes limiting restaurants to takeout, delivery and drive-thru options as well.

The state’s public schools are also closed, and the state Legislature has made $10 million in loan funds available to help small businesses through the period. Massachusetts casinos could feel the strain more than their counterparts in other states during this time.

Why MA casinos are less prepared to handle a shutdown

The owners of these three facilities might be more anxious to get back to business than casino owners in other states. That’s because, in several other states with legal sports betting, online wagering is still ongoing.

The effect of that may be minimal right now, however. As most of the sports world is also shut down due to similar concerns, sports betting handle is taking a serious hit.

Regardless, any income the casinos can draw from online sports betting in those states is more than what Massachusetts casinos are currently pulling in. Something is always more than nothing.

The state government had taken some action recently before the pandemic broke out. The Massachusetts House received a package of gambling expansion bills from a joint legislative committee.

Although there’s no guarantee it would have been a high-priority matter if the virus had not been spread at such a rate, the pandemic effectively tabled the issue. It’s much less likely that Massachusetts will legalize sports betting this year now.

For everyone involved right now, that’s a secondary concern. Primary concerns involve containing the virus and getting treatment for the infected.

Massachusetts casinos have done their part by closing down and cleaning up. Hopefully, they will be able to open their doors again soon.

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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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