After three weeks of debates, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) has finally agreed on official guidelines for the restart of the industry, with no official date set just now.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Gives Final Approval for Casino Reopening
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) settled on a new set of requirements that would need to be met for the three-state casinos to reopen amid the coronavirus outbreak. Amid the suggested measures are social distancing at slot machines as well as a ban on table games lest they lead to the concentration of players in one place, to name roulette, craps, and poker. Previously, it was thought that Massachusetts casinos will reopen on June 29, but this timeline is no longer true.
The new measures were approved with a clear majority and 5 votes in favor and 0 against. Last week, the MGC convened to discuss the measures, but couldn’t reach a decision. Originally, the regulator wanted to suspend all slots, but casinos cautioned that should no slots be allowed on the casino floors, it would make no financial sense to reopen operations.
With Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park shuttered since mid-March, casinos will need two weeks to prepare for reopening. Last week, the MGC said that it would give casinos between 10 and 14 days to draft their plans and restart operations.
Cathy Judd Stein, the commission’s chairwoman, said that the regulator only wished the success of casinos in the upcoming reopening move. She also thanked the companies for having shown patience in the past few weeks while the commission was trying to thrash out the details.
What Rules Will Licensees Now Have to Meet?
The measures introduced in Massachusetts aren’t necessarily any different than what happened in other states so far. There will be mandatory face masks for casino employees as well as patrons and sanitizers will have to be available throughout the properties.
All patrons will have to undergo temperature checks as they enter the property and special social distancing guidelines have been introduced. Every second slot in the casinos will have to be switched off to guarantee social distancing measures are met.
There is another proviso to this regulatory prerequisite for reopening, though, with the social distance between individual seats at least six-feet or six-foot-tall plexiglass dividers installed where these measures aren’t possible.
Last week, Stein said that Massachusetts would openly seek to introduce the strictest safety measures nationwide, drawing from the lessons of others but upholding its own operators to the highest safety standards. Presently, casinos will operate at 25% capacity, one of the lowest in the United States’ reopening casino market.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will have to also step in and announce the roll-out of Phase 3 of his state reopening plan. Presently, Massachusetts is in Phase 2 and, for casinos to continue operation, Phase 3 needs to be enacted. That is unlikely to happen until July 6.
Meanwhile, casinos will have to observe other prerequisite determining their ability to reopen. For example, the regulator expects casinos to be able to inform guests on the progress of COVID-19 cases and what precautions are necessary.
Casino staff will have no sanitize the facilities at every 4 hours in the very least and signage must be displayed in visible locations to remind patrons on proper safety conduct while at the casino.