Three Things You Need To Know
- As information related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to rapidly evolve, MGC will utilize this dedicated webpage to provide Commission-related updates and advisories.
- MGC is engaged in frequent communications with gaming licensees and state officials to share information, monitor developments and determine appropriate next steps.
- Individuals are encouraged to routinely review the Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites for regular updates.
This information was last updated on May 14, 2020, at 4:09pm.
Latest MGC Statements
Commission information and vote from May 14 public meeting:
The four primary topics include: Physical Distancing, Hygiene & Cleaning, Staffing and Operations, and Screening and Occupancy.
Review the draft plans from Encore, MGM and Plainridge here.
VOTE: The Commission voted unanimously to extend the temporary closure of the state’s three casino properties until at least June 1, given the current circumstances and pending forthcoming guidance from Governor Baker and the state’s Restart Advisory Board.
Commission vote from May 7 public meeting:
VOTE: The Commission voted unanimously 5-0 via roll call to postpone the June 1, 2020 opening of Plainridge Racecourse until further notice. The Division of Racing notes that this is a very fluid and rapidly changing situation and will be re-evaluated as needed. In addition, a process is underway among stakeholders to research best practices and prepare for safe opening procedures. To review related memo, see page 82 of the commissioners packet.
Issued on 5/1 as discussed during remote public meeting
A Message from Chair Cathy Judd-Stein:
In keeping with the latest mandate issued by the state, the Commission voted unanimously 5-0 via roll call to extend temporary closures of the state’s three casino properties until May 18. Operational status will be reviewed prior to May 18 as we continue to follow the orders issued by the Baker-Polito Administration.
When we first decided to temporarily suspend operations at the state’s three gaming facilities, the Commission and our licensees held a shared view that public health was paramount to all other considerations. At the time, the urgent circumstances required us to move quickly and decisively.
The timeline to reopen is still uncertain; however, our attention is now focused on developing a responsible restart plan and maximizing this time to establish guidelines, in coordination and collaboration with key stakeholders, including the three licensees, state and local leaders, and public health officials. We will leverage our internal expertise and lessons learned from other jurisdictions. Additionally, we will closely monitor guidance under development by the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board.
Our shared priority of public health remains paramount in our decision-making as we determine how best to proceed in a post-pandemic environment.
To support the work already in progress under the leadership of Interim Executive Director Wells, an internal Restart Working Group will be convened. This group will assist in the development of the work plan and identify early on issues for the Commission’s consideration to facilitate agile action by on key policy and regulatory matters.
This task force will also assist with oversight and planning for two primary areas identified as core to a safe and sustainable reopening plan:
1) Technical Opening
Technical Opening Protocols & Procedures will consist of an assessment of the regulatory process required to bring casinos back online, including an extensive operations checklist that ensures the necessary compliance and integrity standards.
2) Health & Safety
Health & Safety Operational Planning will address a comprehensive opening strategy regarding measures necessary to prioritize the well-being of casino guests and employees. Topics will include, but not be limited to, enhanced sanitation procedures, employee training, physical distancing, occupancy limitations and any other guidance provided by public health authorities.
The plan will also need to account for what procedures will be necessary in the event of a restart setback.
In addition, the MGC team will be developing in parallel the protocols and procedures for the reopening of the MGC Office to ensure a safe return to the office for MGC employees.
In terms of timing, the MGC will continue to follow the state’s lead and abide by all mandates. A status update will be provided at next week’s public meeting.
This difficult set of circumstances has presented an unprecedented global challenge. As so many have said, we are all in this together. An effective reopening plan will require sustained cooperation from all involved. Thank you to the MGC team and our licensees for your hard work and thoughtful diligence, despite this intense and challenging situation.
The May 1 Meeting Archive is available here.
Issued on 4/23 during a remote public meeting
A Message from Chair Cathy Judd-Stein:
In keeping with a mandate issued by the state, the Commission extended temporary closures of the state’s three casino properties on April 3 until May 4. We will revisit operational status before May 4 as we continue to take our lead from the Baker-Polito Administration and public health officials. They are providing guidance based on their assessment of critical health benchmarks.
At this time, we are unable to provide a definitive timeline for the safe resumption of operations; however, we are fully engaged with our licensees in preparation for a “new normal” and the myriad of considerations for a safe and sustainable re-opening process. What we do know for sure is it will not be as simple as unlocking the doors and turning the lights back on.
Countless organizations around the globe are devising plans for post-pandemic procedures. These are uncharted waters. I appreciate that Wynn, MGM and Penn National have been industry leaders in this discussion, engaging top public health experts to establish best practices and preparing plans to ensure that patrons and employees feel safe.
Recently, Wynn CEO Matt Maddox issued a 23-page report that detailed a health and sanitation program for the Vegas properties. It outlined many critical issues, including physical distancing, meticulous cleaning procedures, PPE for guests and staff, reduced occupancy, and so forth. As MGM and Penn have also publicly noted, these plans for all of the properties continue to evolve as new information and data becomes available. These plans will vary from state to state and will unroll at various stages. When the time is right, the Commission and our licensees will have the benefit of lessons learned, along with strong, data-driven state and local leadership.
I think it is also worth noting that these plans will require a robust public education campaign for customers and employees. Right now, the focus remains on staying home to stop the spread and flatten the curve, but as we look toward the next phase, whenever that may be, there will be no shortage of logistics to consider.
I appreciate our licensees continued commitment to health and safety.
And to all on the frontline – our dedicated medical personnel and all those supporting their efforts as well as those ensuring our supply line – we again express our gratitude. To the MGC team, thank you for your continued, meaningful engagement and thank you for doing your part by staying home.
Commission votes from April 23 public meeting:
VOTE: Commission voted unanimously 5-0 via roll call to approve a request from MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor to delay the launch of the play management system PlayMyWay from September 1, 2020 until September 1, 2021. The licensees jointly requested the delay, citing a need to postpone capital expenditure projects due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the resulting suspension of operations.
VOTE: The Commission voted unanimously 5-0 via roll call to approve a request from the Division of Licensing to allow grace periods in 30-day increments for casino employees and vendors whose license or registration will expire during the closure of the casinos. The licensing division will engage with MGC’s LMS vendor to develop system functionality, allowing licenses to remain active for 30 days.
The grace period allows the employee to remain in compliance and return to work when the casinos re-open. Without the grace period, the employee’s license or registration would expire and would prevent the employee from returning to work. The employee will be required to file a license renewal upon return.
The April 23 Meeting Archive is available here.
Issued on 4/15
A Message from Chair Cathy Judd-Stein:
The MGC hopes this message finds you safe and in good health. Our thoughts and concern remain with everyone who has been directly affected by the virus and with the frontline workers who continue to heroically protect and serve our community.
The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus continues to challenge us in ways unimaginable, both professionally and personally. During this time of great uncertainty, our team is closely monitoring new developments and making every effort to effectively adapt to the changing environment. We continue to post COVID-related MGC actions and decisions to our dedicated webpage and encourage our constituents and stakeholders to stay connected.
On Saturday, March 14, the Commission held an emergency public meeting and voted to temporarily suspend casino and racing operations to take effect by 6 a.m. on March 15. Since then, the Commission has voted to extend property closures in keeping with state mandates and will revisit operational status prior to May 4.
The gaming commission and its licensees knew that the decision to close casinos in mid-March would have a drastic impact on monthly revenue potential and acknowledge that financial uncertainties will continue to persist for now. However, this unprecedented situation is a public health crisis first and foremost, and taking immediate protective measures to safeguard everyone’s physical well-being was paramount to all other complex and challenging considerations.
The MGC is fully engaged with our licensees about forward-looking plans and a safe return to gaming operations. At the same time, the prudent next steps and Commission decision-making will be informed as scientific data and other relevant facts emerge, the landscape evolves, and the short and long term economic effects come more clearly into view.
The MGC understands and empathizes with the challenges that many small businesses and gaming industry workers face due to the hardships caused by COVID-19. MGC’s Office of Workforce, Supplier and Diversity Development is taking the lead on maintaining and updating an online list of available resources, including hosting a series of webinars to facilitate information-sharing about business strategies and emerging sources of support.
I continue to be inspired and grateful for the multitude of creative ways others rise to the challenge and lend a helping hand to the community. Mary Thurlow, MGC’s program manager and a talented quilt maker, is using her sewing skills to make and donate numerous face masks. Recently, MGM Springfield donated sleeping cots and outdoor heaters to Mercy Medical Center and the City of Springfield.
Please take care of yourself and your loved ones. I know we can get through this, together.
Issued on 4/10 at 10:25am
MGC Quarterly Budget Review
VOTE: The Commission voted unanimously to adopt the recommendations outlined in the memorandum from CFAO Lennon as included in the commissioners meeting packet, and take the steps necessary to effectuate those recommendations.
Chair Cathy Judd-Stein offered the following remarks in regard to the budget discussion that took place during a remote public meeting on April 9, 2020:
“Today’s budget discussion is in keeping with our standard quarterly review process, combined with a profound awareness that our agency and the state’s gaming industry, along with so many others around the world, are now facing an unprecedented and dynamic situation.
Given the rapidly evolving circumstances resulting from the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19, our CFAO Derek Lennon urged the Commission to proceed as scheduled with a budget review as a prudent step and appropriate action, particularly in light of emerging fiscal considerations.
I anticipate, like many organizations, that we will be revisiting budget discussions routinely as the landscape continues to evolve, facts develop and financial effects come more clearly into view.”
Emergency Regulation Regarding Unclaimed Winnings
VOTE: The Commission voted unanimously to amend 205 CMR 138.68 by emergency to remedy an issue that has emerged as a result of the unanticipated closure of the gaming establishments. Pursuant to G.L. c. 23K, s. 53 and 205 CMR 138.68, casino patrons have one year within which to claim any cash or prize winnings. The amendment clarifies that this one-year period shall not include any period of time that a casino is not in operation. The emergency regulation provides gamblers, whose unclaimed winnings are set to expire, with an extended period of time to claim cash or prizes.
Lottery Impact and MGM Springfield Research Report
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who are conducting a comprehensive, multi-year study known as the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA), presented an analysis of state and regional lottery revenue after the first year of operation for MGM Springfield casino in Springfield, Massachusetts. The study represents a first look at lottery sales since the casino opened.
“This research was completed in advance of the temporary suspension of casino operations. Its findings are important to the gaming landscape ahead. The Legislature issued a clear mandate in the gaming law, requiring measures to protect the state’s successful lottery in order to assure that local aid remains a reliable source of funding for communities across the Commonwealth. The use of research will be critical to our ability to assess and inform policy reflecting the rapidly changing environment due to the global pandemic,” said MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein.
Full Report l Presentation l Fact Sheet.
Meeting Archive: Review April 9 meeting archive here.
Issued on 4/3 at 10:26am
VOTE: During a public meeting on April 3, 2020, the Commission voted unanimously 5-0 via roll call to extend the temporary suspension of operations at the 3 gaming establishments, initially instituted on March 14, 2020 and extended on March 25, to May 4, 2020 at noon, consistent with Governor Baker’s order issued on March 31, 2020 and the Commission’s statutory obligations. The Commission will continue to review and assess the public health conditions in cooperation with appropriate authorities and the gaming licensees and make a determination as to the status of operations in advance of May 4, 2020.
The temporary suspension until May 4, 2020, will also apply to the state’s simulcasting facilities.
Issued on 4/1 at 11:30am
On April 1, 2020, MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein issued an open letter outlining MGC’s latest actions in regards to COVID-19. Chair Judd-Stein also noted that MGC is closely monitoring and assessing this rapidly evolving public health crisis and specifically its effect on the state’s expanded gaming industry. She offered MGC’s heartfelt thanks to front line workers, recognized the collaborative and compassionate leadership of MGC’s licensees and commended the internal MGC team for its work and attention to ensuring the continuity of the agency’s operational and regulatory duties. Read the full letter here.
In addition, the MGC issued a series of blog posts aimed at keeping the public and key constituents and stakeholders informed about helpful resources and other COVID-19 response activities, including:
Issued on 3/25 at 3:06pm
VOTE: Today the Commission voted unanimously 5-0 via roll call to extend the temporary suspension of operations at the 3 gaming establishments, initially instituted on March 14, 2020, to April 7, 2020, at noon, consistent with Governor Baker’s order issued on March 23, 2020, and the Commission’s statutory obligations discussed at the March 14, 2020 hearing. The Commission will continue to review and assess the public health condition in cooperation with appropriate authorities and the gaming licensees and make a determination as to the status of operations in advance of April 7, 2020.
Interim Executive Director Karen Wells recommended that given the current health emergency, MGC staff will provide recently submitted Region C-related RFI responses and public comments to the Commissioners for their review on a rolling basis. The Commission will then evaluate the appropriate time to discuss the next steps at a future public meeting.
On a related note, the MGC is so pleased to have the opportunity to donate 40,000 pairs of gloves from our Racing Division to workers in need of PPE who are on the front line of fighting the spread of COVID-19. The gloves are in the process of being delivered to MEMA by members of the state police who work in our Gaming Enforcement Unit.
Issued on 3/23 at 2:30pm
The MGC today announced resources available for small businesses in Massachusetts that serve the casino and horse racing industry and have been impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Recently the MGC engaged two small business technical assistance providers to provide targeted, one-on-one consulting expertise to small and medium-sized Massachusetts-based companies who are currently vendors to the state’s gaming licensees. Also, MGC is providing a list of resources now being offered by the Commonwealth to support small businesses.
Learn more here.
Issued on 3/20 at 11:11am:
VOTE: The Commissioners voted unanimously 5-0 (via roll call) to approve the joint recommendation from the MGC Racing Division and Plainridge Racecourse to delay the April 6 start of live harness racing at Plainridge Park Casino until June 1, 2020. The commissioners also committed to revisiting this decision at the beginning of May to assess the facts and circumstances available at that time.
To review the memo sent to the commission from the Racing Division, see page 3 of the meeting materials: https://massgaming.com/wp-content/uploads/Commissioners-Packet-3.20.20.pdf
Issued on 3/16 at 11:36am
Casino Properties: During today’s public meeting, MGC staff and licensees confirmed the successful implementation and completion of closing protocols and procedures at each casino property.
Racing: Onsite simulcasting operations have ceased at Suffolk Downs, Plainridge Racecourse and Raynham Park. Online account wagering remains available. Live harness racing at Plainridge was previously scheduled to begin on April 6 and discussions about postponement are currently underway. We will provide an update when more information is available.
Revenue: Several media outlets have inquired about the availability of the monthly revenue data. February 2020 gross gaming revenue is available here.
Meeting Archive: The MGC is in the process of preparing the audio files associated with the public meetings that occurred remotely on March 14 and 16. Those files will be posted in the corresponding dates in the meeting archive, as soon as they are available.
MGC: In light of the mounting public health crisis, the MGC is informing the public that its physical office at 101 Federal Street in Boston is closed until further notice. Our agency’s technology division has diligently planned and prepared for this possibility, enabling the MGC commissioners and team members to remotely sustain required operations.
For more information visit MassGaming.com, contact the MGC’s phone directory by dialing 617-979-8400, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us via social on Facebook and Twitter.
Issued on 3/15 at 8:51pm
PLEASE NOTE: Given the unprecedented circumstances resulting from the global Coronavirus pandemic, Governor Charles Baker issued an order to provide limited relief from certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law to protect the health and safety of individuals interested in attending public meetings. In keeping with the guidance provided, the Commission will conduct a public meeting utilizing remote collaboration technology. If there is any technical problem with our remote connection, an alternative conference line will be noticed immediately on our website: MassGaming.com.
Issued on 3/14 at 11:26am
Today the Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted unanimously to temporarily suspend operation at the state’s three casino properties, including Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park Casino.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the decision was made in collaboration and cooperation with our licensees to safeguard the health and well-being of casino guests, employees, and regulators.
As we all continue to navigate this unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation, our agency and our licensees will remain in close consultation with public health authorities and government officials to determine safe protocols for resuming operation. As we develop the appropriate course of action, we will keep you informed of next steps. This decision will be reassessed in two weeks, while an orderly shutdown process is actively underway. It is anticipated that the gaming floor will close to patrons at 5:59am on March 15, 2020.
We are all doing our best to appropriately and thoughtfully respond to this highly complex and unprecedented set of circumstances and uncertainties. United in a shared goal of preventing the spread of infection, the MGC and our licensees view this immediate mitigation measure as our social responsibility to prioritize the health and safety of one another above all else.
We encourage you to visit massgaming.com/COVID19 for the latest information as we continue to determine a path forward. Thank you for your understanding.
Issued on 3/13 at 11:12pm
Meeting Notification: MGC to hold public meeting on March 14 at 10:00am
PLEASE NOTE: Given the unprecedented circumstances resulting from the global Coronavirus pandemic, Governor Charles Baker issued the attached order to provide limited relief from certain provisions of the Open Meeting Law to protect the health and safety of individuals interested in attending public meetings. In keeping with the guidance provided, the Commission will conduct a public meeting utilizing remote collaboration technology.
Issued on 3/12 at 7:18pm
This afternoon on March 12, 2020, the MGC learned that an individual who visited Encore Boston Harbor on March 5, 2020 has subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Both the MGC and Encore immediately notified the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). The MGC is working in close consultation with public health authorities and with Encore and Wynn executives to identify the facts, assess the situation, and determine next steps. Public health authorities have informed the MGC and Encore that, based on their review of the facts, the individual was asymptomatic (not exhibiting symptoms) on March 5. Consequently, DPH has advised that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by persons who came into contact with this individual at Encore is minimal. Encore has reported that this individual was present at the casino for one hour and had contact while there with a small number of individuals, currently determined to be seven. Encore has reported that all of these individuals have been identified and alerted. DPH recommends that Encore continue its enhanced sanitization practices. Additionally, Encore has reported that, out of an abundance of caution, all identified individuals have agreed to self-quarantine measures.
The MGC is making every effort to maintain a safe and healthy work environment, while closely following guidance issued by federal, state, and public health officials. As a reminder, important information is available from the DPH and the CDC.
Issued on 3/12 at 1:28pm
As circumstances related to ongoing public health continue to rapidly evolve, an emerging issue has come to the Commission’s attention that demands immediate assessment. Executive staff is engaged in ongoing discussions with the appropriate stakeholders and officials. Additional information will be forthcoming as soon as more facts are established.
Issued on 3/12 10:00am
The MGC is proactively engaged in frequent discussions with gaming licensees focused on prioritizing the health, safety and well-being of casino guests, employees and regulators. Like many organizations, we are closely monitoring developments from the CDC and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Our licensees are employing enhanced sanitization procedures and other precautionary measures, while we maintain a constant dialogue with the casinos and other stakeholders, sharing collective updates to inform appropriate next steps.
MGC Operational Planning Policy and Prevention
The MGC is making every effort to maintain a safe and healthy work environment, while closely following guidance issued by federal, state and public health officials.
An internal-departmental team has been convened and is actively engaged in monitoring the rapidly evolving situation, assessing risk and identifying implementation needs. The team has also been tasked with developing contingency readiness, operational redundancy and overall preparedness planning.
MGC has instituted a series of precautionary measures, including:
Enhanced Sanitization: The MGC has enhanced cleaning and sanitization procedures for the Boston office, and the MGC offices and GameSense Info Centers located at each casino property, including heightened disinfectant protocols for high touchpoint areas and the increased availability of hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies.
Travel Restrictions: In keeping with the guidance provided by the Massachusetts Human Resources Division (HRD), all work-related travel, both foreign and domestic, is discontinued until further notice.
Preparedness for Increased Telework/Remote Work: The MGC Information Technology Division (ITS) is working to ensure that our agency is able to access many (if not all) of its systems remotely. Employees have received updated instructions and training on remote access capabilities, including remote collaborative technology.
Wellness Policy and Workers at Higher Risk: Employees feeling sick with fever or flu symptoms are required to stay home from work. According to the HRD, information indicates that the highest risk population includes older adults and individuals with serious chronic medical conditions. Employees in this risk group have been encouraged to talk with their supervisors to review possible alternative work assignments to reduce their exposure to others or the chances of being infected.
Public Meetings Modifications
As this situation continues to rapidly evolve, the MGC will make decisions regarding public meetings on a case-by-case basis. The MGC has a well-established live stream system, allowing for convenient remote access. External parties will participate remotely via call-in.
The Commission continues to maintain a robust online meeting archive that includes convenient access to all meeting materials, transcripts and videos.
In keeping with guidance issued by Governor Baker and declared in the state of emergency, discretionary gatherings that involve external partners are to be held virtually or canceled.
Casino Mitigation and Prevention Initiatives
Gaming licensees remain in frequent communication with regulators and other government officials, sharing updates about precautionary measures, mitigation planning and contingency preparations, including (but not limited to):
- Engagement of independent experts to advise about best practices and strategies during a public health crisis
- Enhanced cleaning protocols, including additional hand sanitizer dispensing stations in high-traffic areas and increased frequency of disinfectant procedures throughout the properties
- Enhanced communication to patrons and casino staff about prevention tips and critical health information, including risk for older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions
- Enhanced communication to the workforce about health, wellness and sick leave policies
- Continued monitoring of the guidance provided by federal, state and public health officials
IMPORTANT ADVISORY: The CDC has issued specific guidance about high-risk individuals and large gatherings. Specifically, older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. People who are at higher risk are encouraged to avoid crowds as much as possible.
For more information about precautionary measures and event cancellations at Encore Boston Harbor, click here.
For more information about MGM, click here.
For more Information from Plainridge Park Casino, click here.
Prevention Tips & Information
The best defense against spreading illnesses (including seasonal influenza, the common cold, and COVID-19) is to follow some simple preventive guidelines as recommended by the CDC:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Stay home when you are not feeling well
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeves (not your hands)
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (phones, computer components, door handles, etc.)