Massachusetts gaming regulators believe that the state’s casinos are adapting to the continuous local health and safety measures. Despite the changing regulations, the casinos have been able to remain open to their customers.
The never-ending pandemic mandates and the public’s desire to get back to normal have put pressure on the casinos to create a more normal atmosphere. For example, recently at MGM Springfield, the casino began preparations to reopen its poker room, but also went back to requiring guests to mask up, to comply with a local mandate.
“MGM Springfield was prepared for the newest order. For instance, before the new order was even issued, NGM had already reinstated masks for employees. Also, they quickly update their signs, social media, their website, and messaging to alert guests of the latest, state-mandated requirements,” said the director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau. “We have been unable to find significant issues with customer compliance.”
Playing Live Poker in Massachusetts has Becoming Difficult
In late May, both MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor resumed operating normally, but without live poker; at that time, live poker rooms were banned by the gambling commission. It wasn’t until late May that state regulators allowed the casinos to open their doors, but under newly-mandated health and safety restrictions.
Last month, following many complaints from its poker players, MGM Springfield notified the Gaming Commission of its plans to reopen the poker rooms by the end of this year, but with a reduction in capacity. Instead of 28 poker tables, an MGM spokesperson said players can expect 10 to 12 tables.
By the end of 2021, Encore Boston Harbor expects to decide on its poker rooms. However, doing so would probably mean closing some other table games.
This leaves Massachusetts residents with only one viable option to play live poker, at least until Encore decides to reopen the game.
MGM Springfield to Require Employee Vaccination
For now, both patrons and employees must wear masks at MGM Springfield. But, at the end of August, all new hires, except those working from home, were required to show proof of vaccination. All current salaried employees must prove they are vaccinated by October 15. Right now, existing hourly employees do not need to be vaccinated, but that might change. The casino plans to make vaccinations available on-site for employees.
While casino patrons do not yet need to prove their vaccination status, state and local officials continue to weigh the issue of vaccine passports. Governor Charlie Baker said state officials have been consulting with other states, such as New York, that have instituted vaccine passports.
However, currently, the state of Massachusetts does not anticipate instituting any statewide rules on vaccinations similar to New York.
But, that hasn’t stopped some restaurants in the state, like Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, from requiring diners to prove their vaccination status. The restaurant believes requiring proof of vaccination is good for business, and claims some customers like it.
Online Poker in Massachusetts
State legislators continue to debate the issue of online gaming, including online poker rooms. Sites like PokerStars are not available in the state, but offshore gambling sites are available. However, while no online poker players have ever been prosecuted in Massachusetts, there are still unnecessary risks when playing on offshore sites.
While the Keystone State may legalize internet gambling very soon, currently, online casinos and poker rooms are not legal.
Massachusetts Gamblers Look Across the Border
With only three casinos operating in Massachusetts, and online gambling banned, residents don’t have many options; residents of the Keystone State who wish to gamble in a more relaxed environment have increasingly crossed the border into Rhode Island. While the state of Rhode Island does have Covid restrictions in place, it’s more relaxed compared to Massachusetts.
The Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI, is the state’s largest, full-service casino resort. While Twin River does not yet offer a full poker experience, they do offer three-card poker and Let It Ride Poker. The Rhode Island casino also offers a full floor of craps, roulette and baccarat, and blackjack, as well as more than four thousand slot machines. It can make a relaxing getaway from Boston.
The Boston Billiard Club Casino in Nashua, New Hampshire has a 20 table poker room running real-money games daily, from 11:30 am throughout the day until 1 am.
The new casino in Concord, New Hampshire also offers real-money poker games, as well as other table games and slot machines. The Concord Casino might be the best bet for Massachusetts players looking for a more relaxed, full-service casino atmosphere.