Friday Vote Planned On Casino Operations

BOSTON (State House News Service) — Casino and betting regulators will meet Friday morning and are likely to further extend the shutdown of the state's casinos and slots parlor, which have been closed for almost seven weeks.

The Gaming Commission had ordered Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor in Everett to remain closed until May 4, in line with Gov. Charlie Baker's non-essential business closure order. This week, Baker extended his order until at least May 18.

Gaming regulators decided on March 14 -- when the limit on public gatherings was 250 people and more than a week before the governor ordered certain businesses shuttered -- to close the three betting halls the next day. At first the plan was a two-week shutdown, but that has since been extended to keep pace with the governor's latest orders.

The Gaming Commission on Friday is expected to discuss and then vote on the "operational status" of the three gaming licensees as well as the state's simulcasting facilities. The state's three simulcast centers -- at Plainridge Park, Suffolk Downs and Raynham Park -- have also closed to the public, though the commission has said the ones that offer remote betting via advanced deposit wagering may continue to do so.

The commission is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Friday by conference call.

The Gaming Commission has begun working with the license holders to figure out what re-opening the facilities might take. The commission has looked to Macau, the Chinese gambling hub that closed its casinos due to the coronavirus and has since re-opened them, for ideas.

"We are fully engaged with our licensees in preparation for a new normal and the myriad of considerations for a safe and sustainable reopening," Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said during a meeting last week. "What we do know for sure is it won't be as simple as unlocking the doors and switching the lights back on."

By Colin A. Young, State House News Service

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