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Massachusetts casino plan bans craps, roulette, requires masks

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s casino reopening plan, possibly the most restrictive in the country, requires 6-foot Plexiglas shields to be installed at table games, patrons to wear masks and doesn’t allow craps, poker or roulette play.

The five-member commission, whose licensees include Las Vegas-based Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Resorts International, spent more than two hours Wednesday fine-tuning reopening plans that are more extensive than those issued by its Nevada counterparts.

Massachusetts still doesn’t have a reopening date — that’s something that has to be set by Gov. Charlie Baker — but Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said regulators are working to give its licensees a 10-14-day head start in knowing what will be expected of them when they open their doors.

Judd-Stein said the guidelines are being established for the initial reopening, but they could be relaxed as the coronavirus pandemic subsides. At the beginning of the meeting, she said the state’s goal is to have the most restrictive casino reopening rules in the nation.

Massachusetts casino outlets include MGM Springfield in western Massachusetts, Encore Boston Harbor in Everett and the Plainridge Park Casino operated by Penn National Gaming in Plainville.

Commissioners first hashed out reopening plans in a six-hour meeting last week, hoping to refine and complete them Wednesday.

Left unresolved was at what capacity casinos were going to be allowed to reopen. Unlike Nevada, which established capacities by relying on 50 percent of fire-code capacities, Massachusetts opted to develop a formula based on the number of gaming positions available in each casino and adding percentages of that for people patronizing restaurants, and employees.

Also unresolved were standards for social distancing at slot machines. Massachusetts opted for 6 feet apart or 4 feet apart if Plexiglas barriers were added. The 6-foot distance would enable companies to reconfigure their slot floors or possibly turn off two machines between each active slot. The plan hit a snag when an MGM representative said such a plan wouldn’t make the slot floor financially viable. Commissioners opted to revisit the proposal next week.

Other operators said they were having difficulty procuring Plexiglas that met the 6-foot standard. One said the best they could do was find sheets that are 5-foot-10. Judd-Stein said licensees could apply for variances.

“Our goal is to not be an impediment to your reopening plans,” Judd-Stein said. “We also will keep in mind the health and welfare of all the employees and the patrons.”

Massachusetts regulators are requiring all employees and patrons to wear facial coverings when inside casino properties. Food is not allowed on the casino floor and guests can only lower their masks when they take a drink. The state’s guidelines mandate that only gamblers are allowed to drink and that they can’t be carried around the casino from machine to machine or table to table. Bars inside casinos also will be closed initially.

Judd-Stein said as more facilities are allowed to reopen, restrictions would be lifted.

“Stay tuned,” she said. “Let’s hope for the future.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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