Massachusetts casinos reopen without poker until 2022

Jon Pill
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Posted on May 28, 2021 10:13 pm EDT

We got some good news for Massachusetts and some bad news. The good news is that the Codfish State is getting its casinos back. The bad news is that the casinos have announced that they are not planning to reopen their poker rooms until at least 2022.

The four members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously voted to allow the state’s casinos to reopen. This should please those few Massachusettsans who are in the know.

MGC chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein made the announcement, saying, “We really are hoping that this is, again, a sustainable re-reopening for you all and we wish you the very best and wish all the patrons and employees much health and safety.”

Judd-Stein also wished players and the casinos good luck for their reopenings.

“I wish you great luck over the course of this big weekend. Most of all, we can all pause and reflect on the losses that occurred in the last 15 months. They have been enormous across the country, around the worldm and here in Massachusetts.”

The American Gaming Association claim that Massachusettsan casinos lost around a third of their operating days in 2020. When 2021’s closures are added to that, the pandemic closed casinos in Massachussets for 440 days. During this time the businesses have lost revenue and their workers have been having to claim unemployment cheques. Expectations are high for the reopening.

“We’ve anticipated this major step toward reopening for quite some time now,” said Captain Brian Connors of the Massachusetts State Police Gaming Enforcement Unit. “I don’t have any major concerns.”

Champagne on ice

There are only a handful of large scale casinos in Massachusetts. The two biggest sites are the Encore Boston Harbor and the MGM Springfield. Representatives of both sites issued statements to the press regarding reopening.

Jacqui Krum is the senior Vice President for the Encore. Krum said, “We were thinking of potentially walking around with champagne. I think there is a great deal of excitement so certainly not a full ‘every restaurant is open and the bars are a go,’ but some little bit of celebration around 12:01.”

She also explained what the Encore’s policy for reopening will be.

“This would mean opening up every slot machine, every gaming table,” said Krum. “Restoring our restaurants to previous occupancy, restoring the occupancy of the gaming floor. We would allow fully vaccinated guests to not wear a mask, and we will continue to make complimentary masks available for guests to use.”

Seth Stratton, VP for the MGM Springfield followed a very similar tack. “We’re just going to say ‘me too’ generally to what Jacqui said,” he told the press. “We echo her comments.”

Waiting for poker

Despite these broad plans to reopen, one major absence will remain. Neither of the casinos have put their poker rooms on the list of reopened services. Even during the periods of the pandemic when the MGM and Encore were allowed to open, restrictions made spreading poker unprofitable. Tables would have been limited to four players and a dealer.

Those restrictions are now fully lifted, along with requirements for masks and plexiglass at the table. Even so, the poker rooms are likely to remain idle for the rest of the year.

Daniel Miller is in charge of the MGM Springfield’s compliance department. Speaking to the Berkshire Eagle, Miller said: “We’re continuing to monitor needs for poker and whether we will bring that back. We have decided to make a decision by or around December 31.”

The Encore made a similar statemet using the same December 31 date. This means poker players in Massachusetts will have to make do with home games for the foreseeable future.

Featured image by Parkerjh – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0