Massachusetts Gaming Commission Says No Poker for Now

3 min read

Add Massachusetts to the list of states that will likely prohibit poker when casinos return.

Massachusetts gaming online gambling
Massachusetts casinos hope to open before the end of June, but they can’t offer poker — or several other table games — when they do. (Image:

Gaming Commission Sets Strict Guidelines

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission adopted a set of reopening guidelines this week that would initially forbid not only poker, but also craps and roulette, The Boston Business Journal reported.

The commission based its rules on the principle of keeping gamblers six feet apart if there are no plexiglass dividers, and four feet apart if dividers are put into place. Table games that can operate, such as blackjack, can welcome just three players at a time and will feature six-foot-tall plexiglass dividers.

Guests on the casino floor must wear masks unless drinking or seated, and casinos must provide the face coverings for those who don’t have them. Gamblers can’t carry drinks around on the casino floor or even move from slot to slot or table to table with them. Casino bars cannot open until the state reaches the fourth phase of Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan.

Casinos will open during the third phase, but no formal reopening date has been set. Massachusetts is now in the early part of its second phase, state officials say. The state’s casinos have been closed since mid-March.

The Boston Business Journal notes that Encore Boston Harbor, operated by Wynn Resorts, said it hopes to open before the end of the month, optimistic that the state’s COVID-19 situation will continue to improve in the next two weeks.

The commission hasn’t set limits on occupancy, but has discussed limiting visitors to one-quarter of regular capacity.

These regulations are the most stringent set so far by a state gaming commission. Nevada, for example, allows all table games to operate – including five-handed poker – and makes masks optional.

Poker Forbidden in Multiple States — For Now

Massachusetts isn’t the only state that intends to reopen casinos without poker, however. As Cards Chat previously reported, Illinois and Pennsylvania are among the states not allowing casinos to offer poker initially upon reopening. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board ruled that poker isn’t safe “due to players handling cards and chips.” Gambling operations will be evaluated based on current health conditions, opening the door for poker to return in the future.

MGM Springfield Vice President Seth Stratton said the regulations may prove too stringent.

“I think our team has to look and see if there is an economically feasible way to reopen,” he said.

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