After a few tumultuous months, Massachusetts casinos took a step toward normal this week with a return to 24/7 operations, allowing bettors to access the Bay State’s three retail locations around the clock.
Operating hours had been curtailed in November, when Gov. Charlie Baker implemented a 9:30 p.m. curfew to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The limited hours, combined with capacity reductions, led to a combined 33.9 percent drop in revenue for the state’s casinos in November, though they experienced a modest recovery in December with a rise of 9.6 percent.
MGM Springfield returned to 24/7 operations on Friday. Massachusetts’ two other casinos, Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park in Plainville, both returned to full operating hours on Wednesday. Previously, they could not open before 8 a.m. in addition to closing at 9:30 p.m.
The return to 24-hour operation “feels like a step toward a level of normalcy,” Chris Kelley, president of MGM Resorts International’s Northeast Group, told MassLive in a statement. “We appreciate everyone having done their part to slow the rise in COVID-19 cases, and we will continue to be vigilant with our health and safety protocols. We are happy to welcome back some team members (Friday), and as the capacity restriction is eased and additional amenities reopen … our hope is to welcome back even more.”
The 25 percent capacity limit on casino gaming floors remained in place, though to this point no casino has approached that number. Over the past month, MGM Springfield’s highest occupancy was 18 percent, while Encore was 17 percent and Plainridge 18.5 percent, Massachusetts Gaming Commission assistant director Bruce Band told MassLive.
Massachusetts has seen a dip in active coronavirus cases in late January. The count of estimated Bay State cases Thursday was 78,171, a decline from roughly 100,000 active cases earlier in the month, according to the Boston Herald. The state’s seven-day average has also dropped to 2,636 from 6,2490 early in January. COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide have also dropped.
The return to 24/7 operations was welcome news to the three casinos. November was the worst full month ever since its summer 2019 opening for Encore Boston Harbor, which brought in $27.35 million in revenue. MGM Springfield managed just $10.5 million in November — a lower figure than even July, when it was only open for part of the month. Plainridge Park collected only $7.6 million in revenue for the month.
Things were slightly better in December, when Encore Boston Harbor collected $29.27 million in revenue for December, MGM Springfield $11.4 million and Plainridge Park $9.2 million. But those numbers were still well below the $68.7 million in combined October revenue the casinos generated before the capacity restrictions went into effect.