Updated March 14, 2020 - 11:10 am
Massachusetts’ gaming regulator voted Saturday to temporarily suspend operations of the state’s three casinos in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two of the properties are operated by Las Vegas-based companies.
The gaming floors at Wynn Resort Ltd.’s Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Resorts International’s MGM Springfield are set to close to guests by 6 am EST Sunday. This comes after a visitor to Encore Boston Harbor tested positive for the virus earlier this month.
Penn National Gaming’s Plainridge Park Casino will also temporarily shut down, according to a Saturday statement from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
“This decision will be re-assessed in two weeks, while an orderly shutdown process is actively underway,” the statement said.
A statement from MGM said its Massachusetts property will likely remain closed for at least 15 days.
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday there are no immediate plans of shutting down Nevada casinos.
“We’re in constant contact with our resort operators, and they’re making individual decisions,” he said at a Thursday press conference.
But he said officials were “very concerned” about what an economic downturn from the rise of infections will do to the state. “We’re aware that we rely on gaming and sales taxes … and hopefully we’ll be able to weather the storm,” he said.
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo told the Review-Journal Saturday closing Nevada’s casinos is not being considered by the commission board “at the present time.”
Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan did not respond to a request for comment.
In a Saturday morning phone call, the five Massachusetts gaming commissioners, gaming commission executive staff and representatives from all three casinos discussed ways to approach the temporary shutdown, including finding alternative lodging for displaced hotel guests.
“We sincerely regret the impact this will have on our employees, their families, and the community, but their health and safety is our number one concern,” said a Saturday statement from MGM Chief Operating Officer and President Bill Hornbuckle.
A statement from Encore Boston Harbor said the company will continue to pay all full-time employees at this time “as it evaluates the impact of the temporary closure.” A limited number of employees and management will remain on site after the closure to secure, sanitize and maintain the property.
A Saturday statement from Penn National said the company will continue to pay the wages and benefits for the nearly 400 Massachusetts staff members at Plainridge Park “for the two week period.”
As of Friday evening, 123 have tested positive positive for COVID-19 in Massachusetts.
Earlier Friday, Gov. Charlie Baker issued an emergency order banning most gatherings of more than 250 people, exempting certain locations like airports. restaurants and medical facilities. Schools in many districts have also been canceled.
On Saturday, Massachusetts relaxed rules for who can get tested for the coronavirus in an effort to identify more cases and slow the spread of the outbreak.
The state isn’t the first to shut down casinos amid the outbreak.
The Illinois Gaming Board ordered the state’s 10 casinos Friday to suspend gambling operations for 14 days, beginning Monday.
Two of those properties are operated by Las Vegas-based Caesars Entertainment Corp., one is operated by Boyd Gaming Corp., another by Reno-based Eldorado Resorts and three are operated by Penn National Gaming.
“The Board is continuously monitoring developments and will update licensees and the public as frequently as possible,” according to a statement from the Illinois board.
Caesars spokesman Richard Broome declined to comment. Spokespeople for Boyd, Eldorado and Penn did not immediately return requests for comment.
Twin River Casino and Tiverton Casino in Rhode Island have also announced plans to close temporarily for cleaning.