In Massachusetts, two casinos have been allowed by the state’s gambling regulators to begin offering roulettes to players once more. On Thursday, The Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided to let MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett provide roulette games even though a few modifications must be made. This includes a limit to players at each table. Chairs are to be four feet apart if plexiglass is present between them or six feet apart without it.

March Lockdown Due to Pandemic

Massachusetts is home to three casinos. They have all been closed for about four months due to the pandemic. In March, the Gaming Commission released the order for ceasing operations to safeguard people’s health and well-being. After two weeks, the closure was re-evaluated but with almost no understanding of the virus, protecting the populace was essential, so casinos remained closed. One of the casinos, Encore, even had a guest test positive around that time.

Within the initial two weeks of the lockdown, full-time employees were paid. The closure order was extended to April 7, May 4, and then May 18. The last of these extensions had them closed for almost two months. Usually, the state benefits from about $20 million monthly in tax revenue generated by gambling. Before the March shutdown, casinos and slot houses generated about $35 million in gross gaming revenue. The closure of casinos worsened the already lousy picture for state budget managers.

Massachusetts also had its three simulcast centers, at Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Park, and Raynham Park, on shutdown. Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Park, who offer advanced deposit wagering, were allowed by the commission to continue operating in that manner.

Preparations Preceding Reopening

Before reopening, Cathy Judd-Stein, Chairwoman of Massachusetts Gaming Commission, stated that she collaborated with Karen Wells, the Interim Executive Director, to put together a “restart working group.” This group’s objective was to assemble a reasonable plan for restarting Gaming Commission Offices and Casinos. She discussed the fact that there were two aspects of working in the COVID-19 climate to be addressed: the health and safety issues plus technicalities involved in reopening.

The technical opening procedures and protocol were made up of assessing regulatory steps needed to restart online casinos. They included extensive checklists to mandate integrity and compliance with standards. The health and safety part of the program was to set up measures for mitigating the public health crisis. Some topics covered by the plan were sanitation procedures, social distancing, employee orientation, guest occupancy limitation, and other guidelines from public health officials.

Guidelines for Casino Reopening in Massachusetts

By June, the commission provided guidelines for the reopening, although a date was yet to be set. Encore discussed a tentative reopening date of June 29, but Gov. Charlie Baker finally decided the official date. The Governor’s reopening plan took place in 3 phases. At the time, the state was supposed to be in phase 2. The guidelines were solidified at a meet later that month between officials of the gaming commission.

Within the guidelines are requests for web casinos to disable some slot machines and remove some chairs to ensure that guests maintained social distancing. Guests are also required to put on masks. They may only take them off when outdoors, seated, or drinking. The provision of masks is a responsibility of the casinos. Foodservice and consumption will be limited to designated areas and will operate similarly to restaurants’ guidelines.

Initial Reopening in July

Massachuset were reopened in July, though operating at limited capacity. Before reopening, the commission investigated the case from Macau, China, to find anything it could learn from their experience. Casinos in Macau only shut down for two weeks during the peak of the pandemic there and were opened in late February, though with tight restrictions.
The commission currently permits blackjack, slots, and poker games with a limited number of players. Plainridge Park in Plainville, the third casino, is only offering electronic games. The state reported that they had observed casinos in other countries safely offering roulette.

Conclusion

A spokesperson from Encore Boston Harbor stated that the decision to reopen the casino was welcomed. He reiterated that the casino would ensure the safety of all customers and staff. Encore will continue to implement health safety procedures at roulette tables that are already being used with other table games.

People have little to be afraid of, considering the attention to detail that went into casino openings. Staff can be back at work, and the state can generate its revenue via tax.