No major problems so far at reopened casinos

Coronavirus Local Impact

BOSTON (SHNS) – Players have been good about keeping their masks on and keeping distance from one another at the slots parlor and casinos that have reopened in recent days, gambling regulators said Thursday.

After four months being closed, Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor have reopened since the middle of last week under new restrictions meant to keep workers and players safe — no poker, craps or roulette until further notice, gaming tables capped at three players, and players must wear something to cover their nose and mouth upon entry and while in the gaming area, except to have a drink.

“We’ve had a successful opening,” Burke Cain, assistant chief of the Gaming Commission’s Gaming Agents Division, said. “We’re in uncharted waters, of course, and with casino gaming you don’t know what could happen tomorrow, but fingers crossed that we keep going and everything works out well.”

Investigations and Enforcement Bureau Assistant Director Bruce Band said the Plainville slots parlor reopened July 8 with 701 gaming positions.

“They had all the required plexiglass shields installed to separate machines properly. Patrons came in, they were all wearing masks, they were only serving beverages to people seated at the games or at the restaurant being served food,” Band said of Plainridge’s reopening. “All in all, the operations ran very smoothly with no problems.”

When it reopened Sunday, Encore Boston Harbor had 2,449 gaming positions — 1,882 slot machines and 567 table games — and Band said, “it seems to be going very well, they haven’t had numerous problems or anything.”

Cain said that Encore “did a really good job of maximizing that casino floor” and Band noted that the Everett casino installed more plexiglass barriers between slot machines than MGM Springfield, which allowed Encore to make more machines available.

MGM Springfield reopened Monday morning with 909 gaming positions — 819 slot machines and 90 table games. “They had a good opening as well with compliance with masks, very few problems,” Band said.

Without gambling activity for four months, Massachusetts likely lost out on at least $80 million in tax revenue.

Before the pandemic, the three gaming facilities could be counted on to generate roughly $20 million in tax revenue each month. The first indication of the revenue performance of the casinos under the COVID-19 guidelines and limitations will come in mid-August when the commission releases July revenue figures.

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