Mass. Gaming Commission OKs return of craps, expansion of blackjack at MGM Springfield, Encore

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday voted to allow the return of craps games, and an additional seat at blackjack tables at MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor as sought by the casinos under improved coronavirus statistics.

The return of craps games by a 4-0 commission vote occurs as the casinos reached the one-year anniversary of the pandemic this week. The pandemic shut down all state casinos for four months with mass layoffs, followed by a scaled back reopening in July with severe reductions in patrons and revenues.

In addition, the commission voted 3-1 to allow the casinos to expand blackjack from three people at a table, allowed previously, to an additional fourth chair at the blackjack table.

“There is a lot of comfort in knowing that our enforcement measures are heightened… and we will continue to rely on the compliance efforts of the two licensees here,” said Cathy Judd-Stein, commission chairwoman.

Commission staff said the expansion of the gaming options will allow significant increases in employees and expand gaming opportunities for the patrons.

Other casinos including those in Connecticut have craps for their players, officials said.

Stein and members Enrique Zuniga and Gayle Cameron voted for the expansions of gaming requested by the casinos, saying they were satisfied the approved conditions and casino enforcement will safely protect players and dealers.

Commission member Eileen O’Brien voted for the return of craps, but was opposed to the added blackjack player at this time, due to the continuing pandemic.

Regarding the craps tables, there will be three players permitted on each side of the table, for a maximum of six players, under the commission-approved conditions. There will be plexiglass partitions separating the players and partitions for the three dealers at each table, and a minimum distance will be required of approximately four feet separating seats.

No patrons will be allowed to stand or congregate around the craps tables, and the dice shall be sanitized between shooters.

Regarding blackjack, the plexiglass partitions will continue to be upheld with fourth seat added, and there will be a minimum of three feet between player positions.

The casinos will continue to be under a limit that allows 40% of capacity.

The casinos have had patrons significantly below the 40% cap since reopening in July, commission representatives said.

O’Brien said her concerns include that patrons when seated, are allowed to raise their face masks.

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