The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is continuing its gentle push toward the Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield casinos to return its available poker tables closer to pre-pandemic levels in the wake of continuing complaints about long waits and lack of opportunities to play. According to a report at MassLive.com, the two casinos continue to lag on efforts to re-staff the poker rooms in accordance to the promises made to regulators about the games that would be offered to players in New England.
Returning live-poker opportunities to the region’s players has been an ongoing struggle. The Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield rooms were first shuttered in March 2020 along with the rest of the two properties’ gaming services. When the casinos re-opened, they did so without re-opening the poker rooms, citing both health concerns about extended contact between players and staff and a shortage of trained dealers, as some of the prior staff had moved on to other employment opportunities during the pandemic-caused closure.
Continuing complaints about the lack of poker offerings, however, generated a wave of consumer complaints to the MGC, to the point that the regulatory agency held a special “poker summit” on the topic. Eventually the casinos re-opened the poker rooms on a limited basis.
Returning the rooms to full operational status has been a far longer challenge. More recently, MassLive reporters verified that the two casinos have still fallen far short of a full re-staffing, which is important to the MGC in a different way, because of the initially promised jobs that were lost and have yet to be restored.
“Of course, the reason why this is important is the less table games they have, the more they look like a slots parlor,” MassLive reported MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein as telling her colleagues during a Thursday meeting on the topic. “And that’s not, Commissioner [Brad] Hill, what you and your legislative colleagues envisioned back when gaming was expanded. We want the full complement of games, not only because that’s what our patrons want, but also the jobs that are attached.”
MassLive also reported that MGM Springfield currently employs only 269 card dealers, table games and poker supervisors and managers, as compared to the 444 such employees prior to the pandemic’s onset. Encore Boston Harbor, a larger property, has several dozen fewer employees overall, though the difference between now and pre-pandemic appears to be related to the reduced poker offerings as well.
Encore Boston Harbor originally opened its poker room with 74 available tables, but at the present time, only 15 tables are open for cash-game play. MGM Springfield has, in theory, a 25-table room, but only 14 tables are currently open to players.
Featured image source: Encore Boston Harbor