Light At The End Of The Tunnel For Massachuesetts’ Casinos

The three casinos of Massachusetts will remain closed until at least May 18 due to the State’s inability to get a handle on their COVID-19 outbreak.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) unanimously voted Friday to prolong the temporary closure of its three casinos until May 18, in line with Gov. Charlie Baker’s new orders. The number of infections in the state is more than 62k, the third-highest in the US, while the death toll has reached 3,500.

MGC chair Cathy Judd-Stein said the situation will be reassessed before May 18 but noted that “the timeline to reopenĀ is still uncertain.” The emphasis is now on creating a “responsible restart plan” with feedback from casinos, state and local leaders and public health officials setting ground rules for reopening casinos.

The MGC ordered Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park to close their doors on 14 March to mitigate further COVID-19 pandemic transmission. But Gov. Baker saw Friday that all state citizens were required to wear facemasks in public while social distancing interventions become difficult, indicating this display is far from over.

Wynn Resorts’ Encore property has already begun to draw out its reopening plans, which would expand on the experience of Wynn restarting its Macau casinos after the 15-day closure of that sector in February. Which involve shutting off each other slot machine, restricting the number of gaming tables and the number of people allowed to sit at each table that remains.

Massachusetts receives about $20 m a month in taxes on gambling, of which about half comes from their casinos. The three simulcast racetracks of the state are also down for count and state lottery sales have dropped by about one-third, causing the state treasurer to speculate that lawmakers should have allowed online lottery sales when they had the opportunity.

In this plight Massachusetts is hardly alone. Illinois ranks fourth among US states in COVID-19 infections and the Illinois Gaming Board announced Thursday it was extending its casino closure order “until further notice.” Thursday also saw Nevada’s governor dumping cold water on expectations that his state’s casinos will be able to reopen at some point this month.

In New Jersey, which ranks behind only New York in the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths, casino operators at Atlantic City have teamed up with the AtlantiCare integrated healthcare network to devise a reopening strategy. The overall number of hospitalisations in the state has trended down from its April 14 high but there is no evidence that Gov. Phil Murphy plans to do something in the immediate future that might change that trendline.