After many months of being “card dead,” so to speak, Massachusetts poker players have finally received some good news.
At a meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), a representative from MGM Springfield announced the casino would finally be bringing back poker later this year, albeit at a reduced capacity.
Poker rooms at MGM Springfield, Encore remain closed since March 2020
Popular poker rooms at MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor both shut down in March 2020 when the casinos closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The casinos reopened by the summer, but the rooms remained shuttered.
One reason for the poker rooms staying closed was a MGC-mandated restriction limiting the number of players per table to four. Both MGM Springfield and Encore indicated it was not feasible (or profitable) to deal poker under such a restriction.
In May 2021 that restriction was lifted, but neither poker room reopened. During the months since, the MGC has fielded dozens of complaints from poker players anxious to see the rooms reopen.
In late July, an Encore executive explained to the MGC how the casino had repurposed floor space previously used by poker in order to install additional slot machines. The executive explained how Encore did not have sufficient staff to bring back poker. The executive insisted poker would eventually return. Yet the report once more left players in doubt over how much longer they would have to wait.
However, the MGC meeting earlier this month included better news for poker players during a discussion of the status of poker at MGM Springfield.
MGM to reopen 10-12 table poker room during final quarter of 2021
The discussion was quite brief in fact, lasting only a couple of minutes.
“Our first statement is that poker will be returning to MGM Springfield,” said Daniel Miller, MGM Springfield Director of Compliance, when beginning his remarks. He added that poker would return during Q4 (Oct.-Dec.) “at something of a reduced rate” when compared to the room’s pre-pandemic status.
Miller suggested the poker room would reopen with 10-12 tables, less than the 28 tables the room previously featured.
Like Encore, MGM Springfield has installed slots into the space formerly occupied by the poker room. But Miller indicated the old poker room space would be used once again when poker returns.
“We have listened to our poker players and our previous dealers who wanted this back as an option,” said Miller.
Both MGM Springfield and Encore had said they would decide about poker before the end of the year. As Miller clarified, MGM has now made its decision, although has yet to finalize an exact date when the poker room would reopen during the final quarter of 2021.
As some Massachusetts poker players well know, rooms in Connecticut and New York casinos are open and running. With last week’s news, those players can now look forward to being able to play once again in state.