Massachusetts Casino Reopening to Be the Strictest in the Country

With the casino industry in Massachusetts still shuttered, the commission is still working on hashing out plans for reopening. Yet, the regulator insists on having the strictest reopening policies.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Elaborating on Reopening Plans

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has outlined its plan for restarting the casino and sports betting industry in the state. By far, Massachusetts has one of the sternest regulatory measures, that involves six-feet plexiglass shields between table games, mandatory face masks for patrons and the suspension of a number of games, such as craps, roulette, and poker.

On Wednesday, the commission convened to rule on the future restart of the industry in the state, publishing plans that seemed better-tailored to meet the challenges of the post-COVID-19 period or, even operate in the conditions of a pandemic.

Presently, Massachusetts hosts several properties that are established gaming giants, including Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Resorts International casinos. While the commission elaborated on reopening plans further, it didn’t publish a reopening date, which continues to stop casinos from taking steps to reopening or preparing marketing materials.

The reopening date, though, is out of the remit of the commission and lies solely with Gov. Charlie Baker who should make the call. On the flipside, Cathy Judd-Stein, the Commission Chairwoman, said that casinos will have at least a two-week window to prepare once an opening date is announced, giving them enough time to adapt to the new measures.

Judd-Stein commented that while the present guidelines were somewhat stern, they only reflected the current situation and could be later relaxed should the outbreak subside. However, she noted that Massachusetts was clearly determined to offer the most restrictive measures to ensure the safety of patrons, casino staff and residents.

Restarting Business Will Come Under Different Specifics

A timely reopening in July would be ideal for several casino giants who now have properties in the state. The MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor and the Plainridge Park Casino run by Penn National Gaming in Plainville were all shuttered in mid-March, along with all other casinos across the country, and have remained shut ever since.

Originally, the shutdown was designed to continue until at least June 1, but this period was extended indefinitely. Commission members have been working hard on trying to introduce reopening plans, but have not been able to finalize them.

The ground work was laid down last week and had to be finalized yesterday, June 17. However, there are still issues that have not been resolved. For example, the capacity of each casino is also under question, as it won’t mimic the 50% capacity limit set in Nevada.

Instead, the MGC wants to calculate the optimal capacity by calculating the number of gaming positions in casinos and the traffic in the casino caused by staff members and visitors, as well as hotel guests.

Originally, the commission suggested a six-feet social distancing measure, but MGM cautioned that should that be the norm, reopening the casino floor would just not be financially viable, prompting the commission to reconvene at a later date and reconsider the proposal.

Judd-Stein assured that the commission’s plans were not to “be an impediment on” casinos’ reopening plans. However, she did say that the commission “will keep in mind the health and welfare of all the employees and the patrons.”

GamblingNews previously reported that casinos could reopen by June 29, but this timeline may now be revisited.

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