With Tightened COVID-19 Restrictions In Place, Massachusetts Casinos Remain Open

Written By Derek Helling on November 19, 2020 - Last Updated on December 1, 2021

As coronavirus hospitalizations and positivity rates hospitalizations and positivity rates increase in Massachusetts, businesses across the Bay State are taking measures to limit transmission of the virus.

That means the reintroduction of COVID-19 restrictions casinos in the state put in place earlier this year.

The recent protocols involve not only casino gaming but also both live and simulcast horse racing as well. Statewide orders from Gov. Charlie Baker also affect casino patrons.

Details on the latest Massachusetts casinos coronavirus restrictions

Starting Nov. 6, a revised stay-at-home order went into effect in Massachusetts. This is effectively a curfew, advising residents to stay in their homes from 10 p.m. through 5 a.m. except to acquire essentials or seek medical attention.

On the same day, a new curfew for many types of businesses took effect as well. That order explicitly includes casinos and racetracks. Those facilities must close by 9:30 p.m. and cannot reopen until 5 a.m.

In its Nov. 5 meeting, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted to require casinos to comply with a list of restrictions first issued in June. Those restrictions include:

  • Mandatory temperate screenings for employees and guests
  • Mandatory wearing of face masks for patrons and workers
  • Shuttering of gaming positions to promote distancing
  • Installation of plexiglass barriers on the gaming floor
  • Occupancy limit of “the number of gaming positions available multiplied by three”

In addition, the MGC approved the continued restriction of live and simulcast horse racing. Spectators will not be allowable at live racing venues, while capacity for simulcast areas will be set at 50% of fire code.

Simulcast facilities are also forbidden from servicing beverages and food indoors. Bettors may access beverage and food services in outdoor settings but only in a manner consistent with social distancing requirements.

While these are the standard restrictions as the state government dictates, individual casino operators have some discretion on what they do in other areas. All three commercial casinos in the state appear to be doing all they can to mitigate transmission.

What is and isn’t available at each Massachusetts casino?

The amenities, gaming setups, and hours slightly differ from one property to the next. Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park all regularly update their information on their websites.

Encore Boston Harbor

  • Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Hotel is open
  • Most dining options open

The buffet, Center Bar, and nightclub remain closed. Guests may enjoy beverages and food on the gaming floor while actively gambling or while seated at one of the property’s dining options that are open for business.

The casino encourages patrons who wish to dine to make reservations. Encore has also limited capacity at its spa and encourages those with contactless payment forms to use them.

MGM Springfield

  • Hours: 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
  • Hotel is closed
  • Most dining options open

The spa remains closed and valet parking is not available. In a similar fashion, casino patrons can only consume beverages and food while playing or seated at one of the dining establishments.

Currently, MGM limits dining parties to six people or less. Guests may not transport beverages or food from one place on the gaming floor to another.

Plainridge Park

  • Hours: 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. but no entry after 8:30 p.m.
  • Simulcast area is open with limited capacity
  • Most dining options open

The buffet, second floor, Dark Horse Bar, Flutie’s Sports Pub, Revolution Lounge, Trackside, and valet remain closed. The Shopping Station, however, is open. The casino suspended large drawings and promotions indefinitely.

For Slack’s Oyster House & Grill, guests must make reservations. The last seating for that property will be at 8 p.m. However, guests may order to-go until 8:45 p.m.

Mitigation efforts to keep Massachusetts casinos open through the pandemic are the responsibility of everyone at these facilities. By following the protocols, patrons can enjoy their favorite casinos over the next few months.

Photo by AP / Charles Krupa
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. 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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