Masks back, poker on its way at Springfield casino

Hampden County

BOSTON, Mass. (State House News Service)– Things have been going smoothly at the state’s casinos and slots parlor as they adapt to local health and safety measures and continue to adjust their offerings to consumers, gaming regulators said Thursday.

The push-and-pull of the persistent pandemic and gamblers’ desires to get back to a more normal casino atmosphere is on full display at MGM Springfield, where the casino recently began removing slot machines from its former poker room in preparation of the reintroduction of that game but also went back to requiring its guests to wear masks in keeping with a local mandate that began Sept. 13.

“MGM was prepared for the new order. Before the new order, you may recall, they had already reinstated mask mandates for employees. They were able to quickly update their signage, their social media and their other web-based messaging notifying guests of the requirement,” Loretta Lillios, director of the Gaming Commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau, said. “There have been no significant issues with patron compliance.” Bruce Band, the assistant director of the IEB, said that MGM had begun to remove about 20 percent of the slot machines from its former poker room “in preparation of introducing poker.”

MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor both resumed mostly normal operations in late May without offering poker, which had been prohibited by the commission when regulators first allowed the casinos to reopen under health and safety restrictions last year.

After an outcry from poker players, MGM Springfield told the Gaming Commission last month that it plans to reintroduce poker by the end of this year, though at a reduced capacity.

An MGM official said players can expect about 10 to 12 tables instead of the 28 that used to populate the casino’s poker room. Encore Boston Harbor has said it will make a decision about poker by the end of this year and has said that bringing the game back would likely mean the closure of some other table games at the Everett casino.

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