Massachusetts gambling regulators have further extended the shutdown of the state’s casinos and slots parlor, but are starting to look at how the businesses can safely reopen.
With little discussion, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, meeting by teleconference Friday, voted to keep the casinos dark until May 18th,
That is in line with the latest orders from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, noted Commissioner Gayle Cameron.
" We were waiting for the governor to come out with new orders and it is entirely appropriate that we follow suit," said Cameron.
The MGM Springfield Casino, Encore Boston Harbor, and the Plainridge Park slots parlor were to remain closed until May 4th, in keeping with Baker’s order that shut down non-essential businesses. Earlier this week, Baker extended the order to May 18th.
The gaming commission decided on March 14 to close the three casinos after Baker limited gatherings to 250 people. Initially, that was to be a two-week shutdown, but it has been extended since to adhere to the governor’s latest directives.
And the date could change again, said Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein.
" Things are still very fluid and we have no sense of the exact timing, but as always we work to be prepared," said Judd-Stein.
The Gaming Commission has started working with the license holders to figure out what it will take to reopen the facilities.
" What we do know for sure is it won't be as simple as unlocking the doors and switching the lights back on," said Judd-Stein.
Both MGM and Wynn Resorts, which operates Encore Boston Harbor, have casinos in Macau that were closed when the coronavirus hit China and have now reopened.
Wynn has put out a 33-page plan for reopening its properties in Las Vegas. It includes requiring people to have their temperature checked before entering the casino, employees and guests will wear masks, slot machines would be moved 6-feet apart, and there would be limits on the number of people seated around the gaming tables, which would also be spaced farther apart.
"Plans understandably continue to evolve as new information and data becomes available," Judd-Stein said. " Whatever these plans will require a robust public education campaign for customers and employees."
With the casinos closed for seven weeks –and counting—Massachusetts has lost tens of millions of dollars in taxes on the gross gaming receipts.
On April 1st, MGM made a $5.5 million payment to the city of Springfield. That was $2.3 million less than what was due, according to City Solicitor Ed Pikula.
"Hopefully, it is not lost," said Pikula. "Hopefully, it is just deferred. That is the plan."
Mayor Domenic Sarno, in a statement, said he looks forward to the MGM casino returning as “a driving economic force employing thousands of workers and spending millions on local vendors.”