On Tuesday afternoon, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) voted unanimously 5-0 to approve detailed guidelines, outlining the minimum requirements for the reopening of the state’s two resort-casinos and single slots facility.
During a remote public meeting, the five gaming commissioners adopted health and safety rules that Encore Boston Harbor, among others, must meet in anticipation of the resumption of casino operations, scheduled for Phase 3 of the Commonwealth’s phased-in reopening plan.
That part of the re-opening was touted as potentially being on June 29, but there is some doubt about being able to carry that out in such a short period of time – it being only a few days away. Most observers believe Encore could open its doors sometime in July after trainings and safety measures are fully completed.
The minimum requirements adopted by the Commission address key areas, including Cleaning and Sanitization, Social Distancing, Guest Screening, Occupancy Limits, and Reporting Measures, among others. Each licensee will be required to submit a detailed plan at least 7 days in advance of reopening. The licensee plans must identify the steps and measures taken to achieve compliance with the guidance and protocols issued by the CDC, the Department of Public Health, the Board of Health in the host community, the Baker-Polito Administration, and the guidelines adopted by the Commission.
MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein said, “The MGC is working to ensure a safe and sustainable reopening, issuing guidelines today that will no doubt shift to reflect the changing public health data over time. We are confident that our three licensees will work in good faith to implement and enforce these measures. We also know that the success of a reopening will require the casino patrons’ cooperative efforts, thoughtful awareness, and empathy for one another and the greater community.”
The guidelines require the casino properties to sanitize routinely and in compliance with CDC guidelines. Guests will be screened upon entry and required to wear face masks, which will be provided if needed. Employees will also be subject to screening procedures including temperature checks and will be required to wear face masks.
The Commission agreed that all three casinos will promote social distancing of slots play by either maintaining a minimum of 6’ distance between operating slot positions or by installing plexiglass dividers not less than 6’ high between operating slot positions.
For table games at Encore, licensees will install plexiglass dividers at Blackjack-style tables no less than 5’10” tall separating dealer from player positions and between player positions. There will be no more than three player positions at each Blackjack-style table, with chairs for unavailable positions removed. The Commission also ruled that there will be no poker, craps or roulette until further notice.
Each licensee will be required to limit occupancy based on its number of gaming positions available multiplied by three plus gaming area employees of the licensee and the MGC and capacity of open amenities (utilizing the occupancy limits set by the Governor’s guidelines for each amenity).
Lastly, the required minimum health and safety standards put forth in this guide are subject to adjustment or modification based on evolving information and/or mandates from the state.
The Commission held three open meetings (on Thursday, June 11, 2020; Wednesday, June 17, 2020; and Tuesday, June 23, 2020) to discuss minimum requirements for the initial reopening of casinos. Each of these open meetings included extensive input from the MGC executive staff, the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau, and the Commission’s three licensees.