BOSTON (SHNS) – Massachusetts casino-goers hoping to bet it all on black will need to continue their wait.
Roulette will not return to the state’s three casinos in the immediate future, nor will craps or poker, after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday declined to expand the slate of games offered during the limited-scope reopening that has been underway for weeks.
Two of the casinos, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, had asked the commission to authorize craps and roulette, but commissioners agreed that now is not the time to do so given the current public health landscape and a recent — though since improved — uptick in COVID-19 transmission.
“In light of some of the increase in COVID things at this time, we didn’t really feel it was appropriate to add new games, so we’re going to continue reviewing this and keeping an eye on the COVID numbers and consider that at a later date,” MGC Investigations and Enforcement Bureau Assistant Director Bruce Band said.
After nearly four months of forced closures during the pandemic, the state’s three casinos reopened last month with a series of restrictions aimed at limiting public health threats, including stricter capacity caps and mandatory face coverings.
Under those plans, poker, craps and roulette were not allowed, while casinos were instructed to space out or separate which slots machines are used and cap blackjack-style tables at three players maximum.
Two of the casinos sought permission to bring craps and roulette back on board, though representatives for both Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield said Thursday that they respect the commission’s decision.
“We developed prototypes that would allow those games to be played. That said, we are following the directives of the state and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission,” Encore spokesman Eric Kraus told the News Service. “What we want to do, at the appropriate time following the state’s lead, is to offer the full complement of gaming options for our guests.”
MGM Springfield spokesperson Jocelyn Kelly said the casino “appreciate(s) the Gaming Commission’s thoughtful consideration and will continue to work collaboratively to determine when it’s appropriate to offer more amenities to our guests.”
Neither casino offered estimates of how much craps and roulette would affect business or the revenue that they direct toward the state.
In a related decision Thursday, Band also told the Gaming Commission that poker will not return to casinos for the foreseeable future.
Other jurisdictions have allowed full poker tables to operate, which Band described as “not what I would consider a safe situation for the employees or players.” Gaming Commission staff determined that local casinos would need to limit poker to four people per table to adhere with social distancing requirements.
“In discussions with the industry, that just would not make poker profitable for them at all to have as a game, so at this juncture, we are not going to be instituting poker until a time when we could have more players at the table and do it safely,” Band said.
Commission staff reported Thursday that the reopening process continues to run smoothly in its fifth week. Patrons appear to be complying with the face covering and distancing requirements, and no major issues have been reported, Investigations and Enforcement Bureau Deputy Director Loretta Lillios said.
All three licensed facilities — Encore, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino — have seen crowd sizes well within the constrained limits the commission outlined, “rarely pushing up” against 50 percent of those caps even on weekends, Lillios said.
“Things are consistently going well,” she said. “Each licensee is continuing to adhere to its comprehensive plan for cleaning standardization and health measures. That includes enforcing the mask requirements for employees and vendors and guests and proper wearing of the mask wearing the nose and the mouth consistent with the commission’s requirement.”