Blackjack tables gained an extra player and craps is back in Massachusetts casinos after the MGC approved a request by MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor to expand their offerings. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Request granted as COVID-19 rates drop
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) has approved a request by MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor to expand blackjack tables and reintroduce the game of craps “at their respective gaming establishments.”
The MGC shared the news of Thursday’s approval via Twitter:
The MGC voted to approve the “Minimum Requirements for Expanding Blackjack-Style Tables to Include a 4th Player Position” during a remote meeting, according to a blog post on the state regulatory body’s website.
Craps tables, shuttered in 2020 when the state’s casinos closed in March, will allow a maximum of six players per table, with a limit of three players on each side of the table.
For both blackjack and craps games, plexiglass dividers will remain in place. For blackjack, a minimum of three feet of distance between players will apply, while for craps, the designated distance required is four feet. No onlookers may stand or gather at the tables.
Turning the COVID-19 tide
On Tuesday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker took to Twitter to share news that his state currently tops a national population criteria-based chart for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations:
MGC chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein told MassLive of the “comfort” derived from “knowing that our enforcement measures are heightened.” While MGC member Eileen O’Brien voted for reinstating craps, she was against adding the fourth blackjack player, expressing a concern that players could “raise their face masks while seated.”
Judd-Stein added the commission would “continue to rely on the compliance efforts” of MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor.
Boost to a beleaguered industry
According to MassLive, MGC employees said reintroducing craps tables and adding a blackjack seat will lead to “significant increases in employees” and a broader range of gaming options for gamblers.
a year after the pandemic first shuttered all state casinos for four months
The return to craps action and the blackjack player boost is timely. The commission’s Thursday announcement comes a year after the pandemic first shuttered all state casinos for four months. Following mass job layoffs, casinos reopened in July 2020 under heavily restricted conditions.
COVID-19 restrictions hit Massachusetts casinos again in early November 2020 with state mandated closures from 9:30pm to 5:30am each night and a 25% capacity ceiling.
Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino were the three casinos affected. Gov. Baker lifted the November restrictions on Massachusetts‘ casinos on January 25, 2021.