All three of Massachusetts’ casino properties have done well during their reopening push, with minimum to no accidents of violating public safety rules reported at the properties.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Happy with Reopening
Massachusetts casinos are back and off to a good start with MGM Springfield, Plainridge Park and Encore Boston Harbor having done well during the three-month shutdown. According to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, all three properties have complied with safety and health protocols since they have reopened.
Casino patrons have complied with casino protocols, wearing masks while walking around the casino and only removing them for consuming beverages. Loretta Lillios, chief enforcement counsel within the Gaming Commission, confirmed that there had been only a few cases where a patron refused to comply with mask wearing rules, and intervention was necessary.
In light of these numbers, Lillios said, it was safe to say that Massachusetts casinos reopening has been a success. The properties reopened in the period between July 10-13, following a three-month shutdown ordered by the state health authorities and governor in response to the spreading coronavirus disease.
Casinos didn’t reopen fully but at one-third of their capacity. Springfield hosted 90 table games and 819 slot machines, for example. On Thursday, Lillios confirmed that MGM now operates 855 slots withal social distancing rules applied. Both Encore and MGM have avoided the launch of table games, but according to Lillios, they have now sought a permission.
Lillios noted that regulators were now working with MGM and Encore to allow the casinos to restart their table games while still complying with safety protocols, such as social distancing. All parties believe that table games can return in reduced capacity at Encore and MGM in August, Lillios confirmed.
MGM Springfield’s Grant Request and Approval
Apart from restarting table games, the regulators have looked into a $200,000 grant request from West Springfield, owing to an increase number of calls to the fire department, police and hospitals, as the rate of those has increased since the casino opened in 2018. The $200,000 grant should come out of community mitigation funds if we understand correctly.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has approved the West Springfield’s request for $200,000 from the Community Mitigation Fund as well.
The reason why this was necessary was to cover the expenses for 16 public safety employees who have had to respond to more incidents related to calls attributed to the property. The $200,000 grant will allow to pay off 19% of the cost. However, this grant is a one-off payment that will be distributed over the course of a full year.
The Gaming Commission won’t distribute additional funds unless there is an impact on reducing the actual level of calls and improving oversight. Previously, the state got funding under the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, which helped offset costs for staffers responding to emergency calls, but the grant is ending and the state is looking to reduce the impact on its budget.
While the grant has received a go-ahead, Massachusetts is still struggling to legalize sports betting in the state. A bill that proposed a 30% tax on sports wagering had failed to clear a Senate vote on Wednesday.