Citing COVID-19 concerns, Massachusetts Gaming Commission won’t allow roulette, craps at casinos

by Administrator

SPRINGFIELD — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, citing concerns about a recent trend of increased coronavirus cases in the state, decided Thursday to reject a request by casinos to restore roulette and craps to their gaming options.

Commission members said they are very pleased with staff reports that MGM Springfield, Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park are complying with the commission’s guidelines for COVID-19 safety precautions, but do not believe adding to the games is prudent at this time.

“At this juncture, it just wouldn’t be prudent to expand the options right now,” said Cathy Judd-Stein, commission chairwoman. “We’ll always be monitoring the public health metrics."

MGM Springfield and Encore, which opened in early July after a four-month shutdown due to COVID-19, recently asked the commission to let them restart roulette and craps. The casinos are already allowed to offer slot machines and blackjack.

Commission members said the decision not to expand gaming was tied to a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in some Massachusetts communities. Gov. Charlie Baker announced last Friday that the state will indefinitely postpone entering the second step of Phase 3 of the state reopening plan due to the uptick in cases.

The request to add roulette and craps will remain on the table for future discussions, Stein said.

Poker is also not being allowed at this time, the commission said, as recommended by commission staff.

A staff representative said poker would have to be limited to no more than four players to make it safe for employees and players. It would be, at best, marginally profitable for the casinos at that low number, he said.

Commission members Enrique Zuniga, Bruce Stebbins and Eileen O’Brien joined Judd-Stein in voting against expanding the gaming options. Commissioner Gayle Cameron was absent from the meeting.

O’Brien said the commission is being “appropriately cautious” in its approach.

Commission staff representatives said the casinos are being diligent in enforcing regulations such as staff and patrons wearing masks with some exceptions such as when dining, drinking or outdoors, and patrons not walking about with drinks.

There are also plexiglass dividers, distancing at slot machines, and other measures to protect against the spread of the virus, as mandated by the commission.

The regulations that keep the numbers of patrons to roughly one-third of capacity are also being followed, the staff said.

Judd-Stein said she continues to be “very pleased with compliance.”

The American Gaming Commission reported on Thursday that U.S. commercial gaming revenue for the second quarter of 2020 totaled $2.3 billion, reflecting a 78.8% year-over-year contraction, tied to the coronavirus pandemic.