MGM Springfield To Resume Poker Games After Close To Two Years Absence

Posted on: October 8, 2021, 02:53h. 

Last updated on: October 8, 2021, 01:59h.

Poker players will once again be able to play the game at MGM Springfield in a couple of weeks. The game has not been played at the Massachusetts venue since casinos closed in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gaming property recently hired poker dealers
MGM Springfield, pictured above. The Massachusetts gaming property is to resume poker games later this month. (Image: Wikipedia)

As of now, poker is scheduled to resume on Oct. 29 at the Springfield gaming property. When it returns, there will be fewer tables dedicated to poker: an estimated 10 to a dozen. Before the pandemic, there were 28 tables, according to a company official quoted by State House News Service, a Massachusetts-based news agency.

The Springfield gaming property recently hired poker dealers. It also hired a new poker manager.

Initially, after the casino reopened in July 2020, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) did not permit poker to resume at the state’s venues. Then, last May, the MGC allowed for the MGM Springfield and Everett’s Encore Boston Harbor to resume all games.

But the Massachusetts casinos were not quick to resume poker. Casino officials explained there was a shortage of table employees. The Springfield casino prioritized other games, such as craps and roulette.

That led to complaints from players. Bruce Band, MGC’s assistant director of the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau and chief of the Gaming Agents Division, told the commissioners a few months ago the lack of poker at Encore Boston Harbor increased public complaints from about four or five a month to approximately 45 to 50 a month, State House News Service reported.

In recent months, MGM Springfield has prioritized the hiring of additional workers. MGM Springfield offered jobs to about 60 applicants last week.

Encore Boston Harbor is likely to decide about poker games there by December. If poker returns, other table games could be closed, the news report said.

Poker Demand Wanes

When asked about poker games at MGM Springfield, the Rev. Richard McGowan, a finance professor at Boston College who closely follows New England gambling trends, told,  “The poker craze has subsided…. It would the last game that casinos would be looking to add.

“But there are still those who are devoted poker fans,” McGowan added. “In many ways, poker players who bring others along with them expect to find poker tables. So, in that sense, it makes sense.”

But it will “not really” help the bottom line at the casino, McGowan said.

Poker tables take up space that could be used much more profitably, namely additional slot machines, or even poker machines,” he explained.

In August, McGowan further predicted gaming properties like Encore may be forced to raise salaries paid to dealers and other workers if poker resumes there.

“The dealers’ salaries are usually low, and they depend on tips for their income,” McGowan explained. “So, unless the tables are full with patrons, the dealers might be better off to wait to see if the patrons are willing to return to the tables.”

He speculates dealers may not heading to casino floors because they “are afraid of catching COVID from a patron.”

Encore’s Poker Area Taken Over By Slots

Earlier this year, Jacqui Krum, Encore Boston Harbor’s senior vice president and general counsel, told the MGC that the casino “simply cannot find enough dealers” and other workers.

“We do have limited space, and the former poker area is currently occupied by some of our highest-performing slot machines,” Krum added.