Massachusetts Regulator Extends Closure, State Casinos to Re-Open Last

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The Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously voted Wednesday to extend casino closures to the three state casinos, pushing a potential re-opening date to June 1, mainly following the guidance from St. Gov. Charlie Baker, but casino operators in Massachusetts may not be in a hurry to re-open for business.

Gloomy Picture Ahead

Representatives of the three state casinos, Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbour, MGM’s Springfield and Penn National’s Plainridge Park informed the state regulator their properties in the state would be among the last in the country to restart operations. Furthermore, due to the expected significant drop in customer interest, casino operators are exploring options such as working only for a specified number of days for a week.

Casino companies and the regulator in the state have been engaging for a while, as the regulatory body was looking into ways as to how to re-open safely, having the luxury to gain first-hand experience from two Macau operators, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts.

Karen Wells, the interim executive director for the commission, said during the meeting that expectation is not for casinos to open immediately after June 1, and all three operators pointed out they would need least 14 days from then on so they can call employees back in and retrain them, especially with regards to the new comprehensive plans to ensure physical distancing.

Risk Mitigation and Physical Distancing

As per their elaborate re-opening plans, casinos informed the commission they intend on cutting their capacity by half, removing seats at gaming tables and turning off every other slot machine, but the burden of making patrons comply would fall on casino staff who will be responsible for keeping people moving and preventing them from gathering in groups.

Casino operators will go to extremes, if needed, to enforce their risk mitigation measures and social distancing approach, with MGM’s senior vice president and legal counsel Patrick Madamba even stating that staff will make sure those who refuse to comply leave the property.

Will Players Return?

Both MGM and Penn expect to re-open casinos in other states before Springfield and Plainridge Park, and will be able to gather insight as to how to proceed in Massachusetts. Casino operators are strongly considering whether a 24 hour per day, 7 days per week working schedule would be appropriate from the economic point of view, as people may not be keen to return to their properties while the threat of the infection still exists. And while MGM recently warned that nearly all its Springfield staff, 1,900 employees, could be laid off at the end of August, Wynn Resorts is looking into 4 days working week.

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