The gambling regulator in Massachusetts lifted COVID-related restrictions for commercial operators in May. However, the operators in the state have not yet resumed poker games. Reportedly residents who are interested in poker have asked the regulator to establish poker parlors.
The impact of the pandemic last year was felt by nearly any business in the US and especially by the gambling and hospitality industry. Massachusetts is no exception. The initial lockdown in the state ended in July last year. Consequently, commercial hotels and casinos were allowed to reopen their doors for visitors, while following capacity limits, as well as health and safety regulations.
Since then, lawmakers in Massachusetts have gradually lifted various COVID-19-related restrictions and increased capacity limits, similar to other states. The restrictions were eased several times until, in May, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) unanimously voted to lift COVID-19-related restrictions for commercial casinos in the state. As a result, the gambling activity was allowed to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Encore, MGM Yet to Resume Poker Games
Last summer, the MGC did not allow MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor to resume poker games due to the pandemic. Furthermore, the operators indicated that resuming poker with fewer players would not be profitable. In contrast, the two operators have discussed the return of roulette and craps games, but poker was left behind. Now, although COVID-19 restrictions were lifted for the commercial operators, poker is yet to return.
A statement on MGM’s website informs customers that the venue’s poker room is closed until further notice. Furthermore, the operator notifies its clients that a decision regarding the return of poker games will be made by December 31, 2021. Besides MGM, a similar statement was shared by Encore Boston Harbor. The operator acknowledges that currently, it doesn’t offer live poker games and a decision about the return of the game will be announced by December 31, 2021.
If Poker Games Don’t Come Back, Why Not Create Poker Parlors?
Why poker hasn’t returned in Massachusetts has become a hot topic, especially for poker fans and the regulator. MGC’s assistant director, Bruce Band, who was recently quoted by WHDH 7News, revealed that complaints related to the missing poker games have significantly increased in the last two weeks. Furthermore, speaking with commissioners yesterday, he revealed that residents are urging for the creation of poker parlors, considering that the current operators have not resumed poker games.
Although there are plenty of poker fans who would enjoy the activity at poker parlors, Band acknowledged that “the statute doesn’t allow” the creation of such venues. With that in mind, he revealed that operators may be “waiting to see what happens with sports betting” before resuming poker. Considering the timeline released by the two operators, it seems poker fans may need to wait and see how the situation will unravel.