The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) is giving gamblers more time to collect winnings, allotting for the temporary closures of the state’s three casinos because of the coronavirus outbreak.
At its Thursday meeting, the MGC voted unanimously to amend a stipulation requiring casino patrons to collect proceeds from profitable gambling within 12 months. Under the emergency provision, the time the Bay State’s gaming properties are shuttered from the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t counted against the one-year period a gambler has to collect his or her winnings.
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,” said the MGC. “The amendment clarifies that this one-year period shall not include any period of time that a casino is not in operation.”
G.L. c. 23K, s. 53 and 205 CMR 138.68 are the rules governing collection of winnings at Bay State gaming properties.
As is the case with all commercial casinos throughout the US, Massachusetts gaming venues closed in mid-March, as the coronavirus spread across the country. Initially, Wynn Resorts’ Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Penn National Gaming’s Plainridge Park Casino (PPC) were expected to reopen at the end of the March. But MGC soon pushed the restart date back to April 7.
The commission subsequently postponed the reopen date to May 4 at noon local time.
“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,” according to MGC meeting minutes.
Las Vegas-based Wynn, the operator of Encore Boston Harbor, said last week it’s paying workers at all three of its US properties through May 15. The three Bay State casinos combine to employ approximately 10,000 workers, with nearly half that headcount found at the Wynn venue.
Although the coronavirus curve is flattening in some states, gaming operators still have no clarity on when they might be able to get back to business as usual.
Making matters worse, those doing business in states such as Massachusetts with early May reopen dates is that those time lines now look ambitious and likely to be pushed back further after US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said earlier today that it’s unlikely most of the country will be able to reopen on May 1.
Adams said that as coronavirus testing ramps up, areas of the US that have not had many cases of the respiratory illness could be reopened. But he didn’t identify specific regions.
Earlier Friday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported 70 coronavirus deaths on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 503. There are now nearly 19,000 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in the Bay state after 2,151 were reported on April 9.