Massachusetts Casinos Push For Less Restriction As Patrons Follow Safety Rules

Written By George Myers on August 10, 2020 - Last Updated on January 31, 2023

With few exceptions, patrons at Massachusetts’ three resort-style casinos have complied with COVID-19 safety measures. That’s great news for casinos eager to expand their currently limited offerings.

In fact, such widespread consent to mask-wearing and social distancing has caused casino operators to seek the restart of games like roulette and craps.

Patrons’ adherence to safety precautions was revealed at recent meetings of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC).

It was the MGC that set the ground rules and allowed casinos to reopen in early July. MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park Casino had been closed since mid-March.

It is now up to MGC commissioners to assess feedback received in recent weeks and develop a timeline to open more games.

Eager to gamble, patrons follow rules

Massachusetts casino-goers made no secret of their desire to get back to gambling.

That yearning has led to near-total compliance with the measures enacted by the casinos and MGC commissioners.

MGC Chief Enforcement Counsel and Deputy Director Loretta Lillios said during a July 30 meeting that there have been fewer than five incidents needing intervention at the three casinos.

State police officers have been assigned to monitor compliance, but their presence has so far been largely unneeded.

Lillios called any noncompliance “very limited” following reopenings at between 25% and 33% of the casinos’ normal capacities.

To encourage compliance, casino staff joined law enforcement in asking patrons to properly wear masks and monitor social distancing.

“And there’s also been, overall, a high level of cooperation from guests as well, with few problems around health and safety measures,” said Lillios.

Other measures include:

  • Hand sanitizing stations
  • Sanitization of chips
  • Temperature scans
  • Plexiglass barriers between slots and blackjack players
  • Drinks limited to active players

Massachusetts casinos hope to expand offerings in near future

Boston Encore Harbor and MGM Springfield have both lobbied the MGC to allow roulette and craps.

Neither games were permitted in the casinos’ first phase of reopening.

The MGC has also banned poker at the moment. But casino operators have seemingly sacrificed poker in their efforts to gain approval to restart roulette and craps.

The MGC will meet this month on Aug. 13 and Aug. 27. One of those meetings will likely decide the games’ fates.

Commissioners chose not to allow the games initially due to concerns about social distancing.

Casinos will now need to convince the MGC they are capable of operating them in a safe manner.

That could include seated options and other atypical approaches to create distance in a gaming environment previously reliant on large, huddled groups of gamers.

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George Myers

George Myers is a writer with extensive experience in both news and sports reporting. He has primarily covered baseball and football, along with the intersection of sports and lawmaking.

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