Massachusetts casinos given the all clear to reopen

By Ethan Anderson Updated
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Massachusetts casinos have finally been cleared to reopen to the public, albeit under significant operating restrictions.

Calvin Ayre reports that on Thursday, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted to lift the temporary suspension of gaming operations at the state’s casinos and racetracks that was imposed in mid-March due to COVID-19.

Casinos can reopen as early as Monday, July 6, but must first submit plans indicating compliance with state-mandated health and safety precautions.

These including keeping a minimum six-foot separation between operating slots positions or installing plexiglass dividers no less than six feet tall between operating slots.

Blackjack tables will also have to feature plexiglass dividers between individual players – no more than three per table – and between players and dealers.

For the time being, the MGC won’t permit poker, craps or roulette tables to operate.

The restrictions are expected to effectively limit each casino’s individual capacity to around 25 per cent of normal.

All casino guests, as well as staff, will be required to wear face masks, which will be provided free to guests if they don’t bring their own.

Beverages will be permitted on the gaming floor, but only for seated customers who are “actively engaged in gambling” and guests won’t be permitted to carry or drink beverages while moving about the gaming area.

Penn National Gaming’s slots-only Plainridge Park Casino will kick off the reopening party on July 8, while Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor casino plans to reopen on July 12, with MGM Resorts’ MGM Springfield set to follow on July 13.

A little further down the eastern seaboard, five Atlantic City casinos reopened to the public on Thursday, while Caesars Entertainment’s three properties followed on Friday.

Early reports indicated that casinos were operating at or near their current maximum 25 per cent capacity.

Atlantic City’s casinos are also under a strict prohibition on any indoor dining and aren’t allowing any beverages or smoking on the gaming floor.

Those latter rules convinced the market’s top casino performer, MGM’s Borgata, to forego reopening for the time being.

New racetrack and casino for Massachusetts

While a Massachusetts legislative considers a bill that would allow for a proposed racetrack and casino to be built in Wareham, one group seems to be solidly behind the legislation.

Calvin Ayre reported in March that the South Shore Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors have provided their endorsement for House Bill 4070.

In a letter written to Representative Susan Williams-Gifford, author of the bill, South Shore Chamber President and chief executive officer Peter Forman wrote:

“We find it troubling that Southeastern Massachusetts is almost effectively blocked under current law from even considering a gaming option.

“Your legislation will enable an open and competitive process that will lead to the best possible solution for the region, one that compliments the tourism industry and the region’s economic strength.”

The bill would grant the Gaming Commission the authority to offer a slots-only licence for a business in the South Coast and Cape Cod Region.

It would also have the option to grant a full scale casino licence, but not both.

The legislation had initially been offered in October, where it was then sent to the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

They were supposed to have provided a report on their findings earlier this year, but that was delayed and a second reporting date was set.

That will now be delayed as well.

Developers are still hoping for a June 1 date to be set to grant the licence.

The Notos Group is the developer behind a planned $300 million Wareham Park project, and they have already asked the state lawmakers to support the bill.

Now, the additional endorsement of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce should carry some weight with the committee.

The chamber represents 1300 business members across a 25-community region, carrying a great deal of clout.

They describe the project as something that is “worthy of study and consideration” and have voiced their support for the Notos development group, stating that they would ensure that it was a “high-quality project” should the bill pass.

The Cape Cod Canal Region Chamber of Commerce, which served Wareham, Bourne and Sandwich, has not taken any position on the casino legislation.

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