Massachusetts has not seen the flourishing gaming future it once expected. In 2011, when the Expanded Gaming Act was approved, Massachusetts saw itself poised to be the top dog in New England. Unfortunately, the pandemic, as well as other issues, limited their growth. Since June 2020, Connecticut’s tribal casinos have enjoyed an advantage over their Massachusetts counterparts by opening more than a month before them. However, the Massachusetts legislature, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, and casinos are on the move. Here’s how Massachusetts Is Making Casinos More Competitive.
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Changes Taking Place on Casino Floors
Dice Has Returned!
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, after insistent prodding by MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, approved craps and additional blackjack seats on the casino floor. Improved coronavirus statistics in the state influenced the change.
The MGC kept craps, roulette, and poker tables closed when Massachusetts casinos closed in March 2020. As a result, Craps and roulette have only recently opened up. Likewise, poker rooms are still not open.
Another example of Massachusetts Making Casinos More Competitive is that dice are back on the casino floor. Craps tables will allow a maximum of six players, three on each side of a table, with plexiglass partitions between players and partitions for three dealers. The casino will enforce a minimum distance of four feet between seats. The dice will be sanitized between throws, most likely due to a change of shooters. Non-players will not be allowed to gather around tables.
According to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the reintroduction of craps will be accompanied by a temporary change to the licensee’s internal controls in conjunction with COVID-19-related health and safety measures. That temporary change states: All bets must be placed before the dice are sent out. In addition, signage to the same effect is required on each dice table.
Blackjack Adds a Seat
Blackjack games will increase from three to four seats with plexiglass partitions still in place and a minimum of three feet between player positions. Commissioner Eileen O’Brien voted against the blackjack addition saying, “I have huge hesitations right now. As we do more of this opening up, I may feel differently in two, three, or four weeks, but I have some concerns on the additional blackjack seat request.” Rhode Island and Connecticut casinos only allow three players at a table.
Massachusetts Hoping To Kick Start Casino Revenue
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission expects these changes to boost casino revenues and reactivate more than 200 jobs for dealers, supervisors, and servers. In addition, a fourth gambling position would mean 182 more playing positions at Encore and 48 more at MGM. It will also help the casinos open closer to the 25% capacity.
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Visitation and Revenue Still Lacking
Revenue at all three casinos has increased but isn’t close to the pre-pandemic revenue. Visitation has not recovered even to cover the 25% continued in February by Governor Baker. Concerning patron visitation, as of January:
- Plainridge Park in Plainville reached a high of 19% on Dec. 26
- Encore Boston Harbor in Everett hit 19% on New Year’s Day and was 17% the rest of the time.
- In recent weeks, MGM Springfield’s biggest crowd was 22% of its capacity for a new car drawing on Dec. 26.
While the number of gamblers entering Massachusetts casinos has improved, they still lag behind Governor Baker’s new capacity of 40%. Nevertheless, the MGC is optimistic about a significant increase by the summer.
Let’s face it; it’s got to get better for all New England casinos. A comparison of revenue, employment, and pre-covid gambling will only be relevant after this summer. Meanwhile, Massachusetts is making strides toward a typical experience. Next will be reintroducing Poker.