Massachusetts Casinos Remain Closed Through May 18, Marks Third Extension

Posted on: May 1, 2020, 11:03h. 

Last updated on: May 1, 2020, 11:39h.

Massachusetts casinos will remain closed through at least May 18, the state gaming commission voting unanimously Friday to extend the order.

Massachusetts casinos Encore Boston
Ferries won’t be traveling out to Encore Boston Harbor for at least two more weeks, as Massachusetts casinos remain closed. (Image: Getty/

The five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) all backed a decision to keep MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor, and Plainridge Park closed through May 18. The previous mandate was set to expire May 4.

It’s the third time the MGC has extended the closures. The casinos have been closed since March 14. The shutdown requirements were extended to April 7, then May 4, and now May 18.

The timeline to reopen is still uncertain; however, our attention is now focused on developing a responsible restart plan and maximizing this time to establish guidelines, in coordination and collaboration with key stakeholders, including the three licensees, state and local leaders, and public health officials,” said MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein.

Massachusetts ranks No. 3 in the number of coronavirus cases. The state reported a record number of deaths this week, with 252 in a single day. The Bay State has a total of 62,205 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 3,562 deaths.

Earlier this week, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) extended his stay-at-home order until May 18. The mandate requires all nonessential businesses to remain closed.

Reopening Plan

Judd-Stein says the commission is focused on developing best practices to allow the three casinos to reopen safely once permitted by the state and MGC.

The MGC has formed the Restart Working Group to identify certain safeguards to allow gambling to recommence. She says the task force will be handle oversight and planning to reopen in a safe and sustainable manner.

The Restart Working Group will assess the regulatory process to bring casinos back online, “including an extensive operations checklist that ensures the necessary compliance and integrity standards.”

The group will also address health and safety measures to assure the well-being of employees and guests. Implementations are to include enhanced sanitation and relevant employee training, physical distancing, and occupancy limits.

The MGC is also forming a guideline to have in place in the event of a surge in coronavirus infections.

Millions Lost

Gross gaming revenue (GGR) at the three casinos last month totaled $0. In April of 2019, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park collectively won $36 million. Encore Boston Harbor opened last June.

May 2019 GGR totaled $37 million. This month, the casinos will be open for a maximum of 13 days, and that’s assuming Baker lifts his stay-at-home order May 18 and gambling is permitted to resume immediately.

The two Category 1 resort-casino licenses, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, share 25 percent of their GGR with the state.

Twenty percent is earmarked for local aid, 15 percent to the state’s transportation infrastructure fund, 14 percent to education, 10 percent to the Commonwealth Stabilization (rainy day) Fund. Other beneficiaries include the Gaming Economic Development Fund, Community Mitigation Fund, and Public Health Trust Fund.

The slots-only facility, Plainridge Park, is taxed at 49 percent. Eighty-two percent of the money goes to local aid, and the remaining 18 percent to the Race Horse Development Fund.