Casino Life

Live Poker Not Coming Back to Boston Area Casino Anytime Soon

Encore Boston Harbor, one of Massachusetts’ two full-fledged Las Vegas-style casinos, does not plan to bring back live poker soon, it emerged last week.

According to local news outlets, both Encore and MGM Springfield, the state’s other casino resort, have received multiple complaints about their failure to resume poker operations since pandemic restrictions were lifted.

Encore, MGM Springfield, and Massachusetts’ third commercial gambling venue, Plainridge Park Casino, were ordered to shut down in March 2020 to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. They were allowed to resume operations at limited capacity and under strict health and safety protocols in late May that year.

The three properties were cleared for full reopening this past May after about 440 days of operating under multiple restrictions. All three have returned to mostly normal pre-pandemic business. However, live poker is notably not available at Encore and MGM Springfield. Plainridge is a slots-only parlor and does not operate table games.

Asked why it has not brought back poker to its offering yet, Encore said that it was “aware of and sensitive to our guests’ disappointment” about the lack of the game but was not planning to reintroduce poker tables at this point.

Casinos Possibly Waiting to See What Happens with Sports Betting

Encore, which opened doors in Greater Boston in June 2019, said in a statement that based on the current market conditions and the “resulting need to prioritize space” they will not be bringing back live poker at this time.

The statement read further that “if and when poker should return to Encore, it will likely be at a reduced capacity.” This basically means that Encore could even decide not to resume poker operations based on how the market develops.

Unlike table games such as blackjack, craps, and roulette, poker is not that profitable for the casino. And members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission believe that the two casinos may be waiting to see what happens with sports betting before deciding what to do with poker in future.

A bill calling for the legalization of sports betting has been under consideration by state lawmakers for over a month now. And late last month, the City Council of Everett, Encore’s host city, voted unanimously to support the piece of legislation and send a letter proclaiming their support to the Legislature.

Everett City Councilor Rosa DeFlorio said after the vote that “sports betting is a big thing” in the state and that they are all in support of its legalization as it “would be right down the street and bring in big revenues.

According to a recent poll, about 76.5% of Massachusetts voters support the introduction of sports wagering in the state. Athletic gambling is legal in all but one of Massachusetts neighboring states. Most recently, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed a deal with the state’s two federally recognized tribes that authorizes sports betting at tribal casinos and online. The agreement is subject to federal approval.

Source: Encore Boston Harbor Casino Not Bringing Back Live Poker Anytime Soon, CBS Boston, July 16, 2021

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