Massachusetts Casinos Ready to Reopen, But Many Workers Remain at Home

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By Devin O’Connor

Massachusetts casinos are reopening this weekend, but thousands of workers will not return to their positions, as the venues are operating in limited capacity.

After nearly four months of being shuttered on state orders, MGM Springfiel and Encore Boston Harbor will welcome back guests on Sunday, July 12. Plainridge Park, the state’s slots-only facility, reopened July 8.

Though the three commercial casinos in the Bay State are turning back on their slot machines, thousands of jobs remain unneeded. Wynn Resorts announced this week that it has furloughed some 3,000 workers at Encore Boston. MGM Resorts said today that only about one-third of its team members in Springfield are being called back — the exception being cleaning staff, which is returning at 100 percent.

We’ve been in touch with our team members throughout this because they’ve been going through a difficult time,” Marikate Murren, vice president of human resources at MGM Springfield, told MassLive. Murren is related to the former CEO of MGM Resorts, Jim Murren.

“Our intent, based on the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is to bring them back as they allow us to have additional capacity and open additional outlets. That is the intent, to bring back as many people as we can,” Murren explained.

Prior to the pandemic, MGM Springfield had 2,004 active employees. That number is now approximately 600.

Strict Reopenings

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) has issued a series of healthy safety guidelines that each casino must adhere.

Guests and workers must wear face masks, and every person entering a casino will have their temperature taken. Hand sanitizer must be available at all entry points, with signage encouraging staff and guests to use before entering.

Guests are encouraged to take off hats, as face masks will make identifying individuals difficult for security officials. Social distancing must be observed, with a four-foot gap between each slot machine, and plexiglass dividers implemented at table games. Drinks are to only be consumed while seated.

No more than three players are to be at a blackjack table. Craps, roulette, and poker remain suspended.

As for total occupancy, the MGC says casinos will adhere to the following formula: “Number of gaming positions available x 3 + gaming area employees of the licensee and MGC + capacity of open amenities utilizing the occupancy limits set by the Governor’s guidelines for each amenity.” Simple enough.

Millions of Lost Revenue

Since closing March 15, the casinos have lost tens of millions of dollars in gross gaming revenue (GGR).

In March 2019, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park won $14.23 million (Encore did not open until June 2019). In April of 2019, the two properties won $12.34 million, and in May $12.84 million. In June, the three casinos won $15.82 million. All said, March through June of last year brought in more than $55.2 million for the casinos.

March 2020 GGR totaled just $9.79 million. April, May, and June was $0, meaning Massachusetts’ gaming industry missed out on roughly $45.4 million in gaming revenue due to the COVID-19 closures. More losses are coming, as the casino operate in reduced capacities, travel concerns remain, and a global economy remains unstable.