Massachusetts Reopens Its Casinos

The Encore Boston Harbor, the MGM Springfield and the Plainridge Park casinos in Massachusetts have reopened after being shut down for roughly four months. The casinos, which were closed at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, will reopen under strict health and safety conditions and capacity limits.

Wynn Encore Casino.

Massachusetts has reopened its MGM Sprinfield and Wynn Encore Boston Harbor casinos after four months of closures. ©TraveLink/Pixabay

The casinos have been able to recommence business as Massachusetts moved into Phase 3 of its reopening plan last Monday. The Plainridge Park horse track and casino was the first to reopen, opening its doors on Wednesday with strict precautions in place such as six-foot markers and plexiglass separators between slots.

The Wynn-operate Encore Boston Harbor Casino opened on Sunday July 12, promising to offer an experience that was guided by the advice of local health officials. The MGM Springfield opened on Monday July 13, and utilized the same MGM Seven-Point Safety Plan that it has implemented in its other casino reopenings.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission previously announced a set of health and safety measures that the state’s casinos would need to follow in order to reopen. In all three cases, casinos have implemented additional precautions in an effort to lure health-conscious customers back through their doors.

Some of the official Gaming Commission measures include:

  • Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes must be available for guests at all times.
  • Guests and staff must be supplied masks. Masks must be worn on the gaming floor.
  • Slot machines must sit four feet apart from one another with plexiglass separators, or six feet apart without.
  • Players will not be able to take their drinks around the gaming floor.
  • Table games including poker and roulette are not permitted. Blackjack is allowed under the condition a plexiglass divider separates the dealer and a maximum of three players..
  • Only gambling visitors will be able to receive drink services. Masks will only be able to be lowered on gaming floors to consume drinks.

Although it is not required, the MGM and Encore casinos will be conducting temperature scans at the entrance of casinos. Those who exhibit signs or symptoms of coronavirus infection will be denied entry. The MGM and Plainridge will shut most of its dining areas, and the Plainridge will limit its alcohol options to beer.

At the Encore Boston Harbor, 1,700 of its 3,000 furloughed employees are set to return to regular work hours, though 2,700 were on-site to commemorate the resort’s reopening. A Wynn spokesperson shared that the remaining staff will be invited to return to work once restrictions ease.

The Mayor of Everett, the location of the Encore Boston Harbor casino, was quick to celebrate the news of the Encore’s reopening while requesting patrons gamble with caution.

“The City of Everett welcomes the return of Encore Boston Harbor, as it means that hundreds of employees can get back to work in a healthy and safe environment. We encourage visitors to enjoy Encore while adhering to the COVID safety protocols and hope that they will also explore all of the great shops and restaurants that our city has to offer.”Carlo DeMaria, Mayor, Everett in a written statement shared to NBC Boston

Massachusetts Casinos Struggle

Although the reopening is good news for Massachusetts gamblers, the state’s casinos are still in a dire financial situation. All three of Massachusetts’ casinos revenues were falling short of predictions before the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the four months of closures may be the final nail in the coffin for two of the casinos in particular.

According to Richard McGowan, an associate professor in the finance department at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, the Plainridge Park Casino could even close. He also added that due to its failure to pay its licensing fees on time, MGM may even look into selling the property to a smaller operator.

MGM has started renegotiating with regulators to delay mandatory payments it agreed to make when it first secured the rights to operate in Springfield. MGM first told the state it would gross an average of $34.8 million per month, though that figure over its first 18 months of operation has been $21.5 million.

This is due to the competition from the nearby Encore Boston Harbor. However, even the Wynn property has been struggling. Its first-quarter operating revenues were down $61 million, with an even worse second quarter expected to be revealed when it releases its report on August 6.

It’s predicted that domestic travel spending will be down 40 percent this year, a statistic that will not be soothing any minds in Massachusetts. Fortunately, coronavirus cases are declining in the state despite an upswing in cases in much of the rest of the nation.

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