SEPT. 24, 2020. . . (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE) — It’s been almost three months since the slots parlor and casinos in Massachusetts reopened and regulators said Thursday that each of the gambling facilities are now starting to expand their offerings.
As of Thursday, Encore Boston Harbor in Everett reopened its spa, beauty store and a retail outlet, MGM Springfield plans to reopen its steakhouse to diners on weekends beginning Oct. 2 and Plainridge Park Casino is planning to go back to 24/7 operations starting Oct. 9, officials from the Gaming Commission said.READ MORE: Suspicious Fire In Brockton Under Investigation
Karen Wells, the commission’s executive director, said Thursday that the new offerings must comply with all state and commission COVID-19 safety guidelines and that the commission will review the Baker administration’s guidelines for things like spas to ensure they mesh well with the commission’s rules for gaming licensees.
After four months being closed, Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor reopened in early July under restrictions meant to keep workers and players safe — no poker, craps or roulette allowed, gaming tables capped at three players, and players must wear something to cover their nose and mouth upon entry and while in the gaming area, except to have a drink.
Since a few initial problems involving large gatherings in suites at Encore Boston Harbor were ironed out, no major issues have been reported to the commission, regulators said. Investigations and Enforcement Bureau Deputy Director Loretta Lillios said Thursday that the slots parlor and casinos have all remained “well below” the reduced capacity limits set by the commission.
“On the safety and health measures, things are continuing to go well at each of the three properties with continued broad compliance by the casinos with the health and safety requirements, continued dedication of resources for sanitization, hygiene, the enforcement of mask protocol with their employees and with guests, enforcement of the beverage requirement limited to those seated while gaming, and overall the acceptance by the patrons has been good with no significant issues to report at this time,” she said.
Lillios said Encore Boston Harbor also plans to add 87 new gaming positions, including at least some video poker monitors in a loft area, by the end of October. The Everett casino had 2,449 gaming positions — 1,882 slot machines and 567 table games — when it reopened in July.READ MORE: 17-Year-Old From Nashua, NH Killed In Crash On Everett Turnpike
During the first full month of operations under capacity limits and without some popular table games, the state’s three gaming establishments generated 83 percent of the gross gaming revenue realized in August 2019 while operating just 49 percent of the gaming positions that were available a year ago, the commission reported last week. Of the roughly $71 million generated in gaming revenue in August, about $20 million will flow to the state as revenue.
Lillios also told commissioners Thursday that the licensees had informed the commission of “a small number” of COVID-19 cases among casino or slots parlor employees. She said the number of cases reported was in the single digits, but did not detail which facility or facilities had reported cases among employees.
“We’ve been notified that none of those cases involve front- or guest-facing positions or direct contact with any commission employees. We’ve been notified that each of the positive cases was determined to have been contracted off-property by a source other than at the casino, like a family member or other direct source,” she said. “Each affected property is in communication with the board of health, following the guidelines and guidance of the board of health and cooperating with the board of health.”
Two of the three communities that host a gambling center — Everett and Plainville — are or have been in the Department of Public Health’s highest-risk category for COVID-19 transmission.
Everett is currently in the red category with an average daily incidence rate of 11.9 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks. Plainville was moved from the red category to the yellow category this week after it saw its incidence rate fall to 7.0, below the 8.0 threshold for the highest-risk designation. Springfield is in the yellow category with an incidence rate of 4.3 cases per 100,000 residents.MORE NEWS: Massachusetts Reports 2,107 New COVID Cases, 3 Additional Deaths
(© Copyright 2020 State House News Service)