COVID-19 Restrictions on Massachusetts Casinos Lifting This Weekend

Posted on: May 27, 2021, 12:03h. 

Last updated on: May 26, 2021, 03:53h.

The three casinos in Massachusetts will soon be free of nearly all state-imposed operating restrictions that were put in place last year ago because of COVID-19.

Massachusetts casinos Encore Boston COVID-19
Encore Boston Harbor is lit up in January of 2021 with “SOON,” a message referencing the casino’s forthcoming return to 24/7 operations. Beginning this weekend, the three casinos in Massachusetts will be cleared of state COVID-19 restrictions. (Image: Boston Herald)

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted Wednesday to lift COVID-19 related orders for gaming establishments that were first implemented when Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park were permitted to reopen in July of 2020.

Starting Saturday, May 29 at 12:01 am ET, patrons and employees who are vaccinated can walk freely inside the casinos without wearing a face mask. The three gaming floors no longer need to practice social distancing when it comes to slot machines and table games, plexiglass barriers can be removed, and bar seating can resume. Vaccinated visitors can also drink and eat while walking. 

Casino guests will adhere to the honor system when it comes to whether they’ve been vaccinated. Those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are required to continue wearing face coverings.

As for employees, MGM and Encore says their human resources teams are able to track which employees are and are not vaccinated. Plainridge Park says it will use the honor system for its workers, as it has a corporate policy of not obtaining such health information. 

Casinos Welcome News

Massachusetts fully closed its three casinos in mid-March of 2020, and kept them shuttered until July 12. And then last fall, gaming operations were forced to suspend operations nightly at 9:30 pm through 5:00 am. The curfew ended in January of this year.

After a most difficult 14 months, the casinos are excited to get back to full business operations.

This means opening up every slot machine, every gaming table, restoring our restaurants to previous occupancy, restoring the occupancy of the gaming floor,” Jacqui Krum, senior vice president at Encore Boston Harbor, told the State House News Service. “We will allow fully vaccinated guests to not wear a mask, but we will continue to make complimentary masks available for guests to use.”

Massachusetts casinos are faring well in 2021. Gross gaming revenue (GGR) last month totaled $85 million, its best monthly performance in state history. 

GGR totaled $0 in April of 2020, and $36 million in April of 2019. However, Encore Boston Harbor wasn’t open at that time, as the Wynn Resorts property welcomed its first gamblers in June of 2019.  

Hiring Difficulties

Returning to full operations might not be as easy as it sounds. Seth Stratton, general counsel and vice president of MGM Springfield, told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission this week that because of the casinos’ long mandatory shutdowns, many workers have found new places of employment.

“The competition to bring those [hospitality] workers back is strong,” Stratton explained to the MGC. 

“Part of our phased reopening is about hiring,” he added. “It’s about bringing folks back and hiring.”