As coronavirus cases ebb, 70% of the state’s population vaccinated and the summer travel season ramping up again, casinos in Massachusetts are enjoying some of their best months ever.
In another example of life returning to normal, the three casinos in the Bay State set new combined records for both handle and revenue in May. The combined handle of $724 million broke the record of $718 million set in March, and the combined revenue of $86.675 million broke the previous mark of $86.075 million set in February 2020 — right before the coronavirus pandemic changed everything.
The combined revenue record came despite two casinos, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park in Plainville, experiencing very moderate revenue drops from April — of 3 and 0.16%, respectively, according to numbers from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Those dips were more than offset by the May gains at Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, which saw May revenue increase from April by 5.5% to $52,928,281, the casino’s second-highest monthly revenue total since its founding in 2019.
The combined handle of the three casinos represented a rise of more than 2% from the April figure of $709 million, which had been the state’s second-best monthly total ever. The combined revenue was a jump of 2.4% over the total from April. Combined revenue has now been above $83 million for three straight months since Massachusetts began to relax coronavirus protocols and let casinos return to around-the-clock operations.
The May revenue total at Encore Boston Harbor is eclipsed only by December 2019, when the casino collected $54.013 million in gross revenue from its slot machines and table games. The May handle total of $350.551 million at Encore was also its second-highest ever, outmatched only by the $359.214 million in handle the casino recorded in August 2019.
MGM Springfield has now seen gross revenue from its slot and table games eclipse $21 million for three consecutive months, something not seen previously since March, April and May 2019. MGM’s May handle of $204.446 million represented its second-best total since its founding in 2018, beaten only by the $215.572 million in handle collected in March 2021.
Plainridge Park has seen gross revenue from its slot machines go over the $12 million mark for three months running, which the casino hadn’t previously experienced since June through August 2019. Its May handle of $169.920 million represented the facility’s highest single-month total since it collected $174.612 million in June 2019.
What a change it all was from a year ago, when the spread of a coronavirus led to the shutdown of casinos nationwide. Massachusetts casinos were allowed to reopen in early July 2020, amid a host of protocols such as hours and occupancy limits, a ban on some table games, and slot machines set four to six feet apart.
But Massachusetts has benefitted from a very high vaccination rate, with 70% of its population fully vaccinated, according to data from The New York Times. That’s the second-best rate in the nation, behind 73% in Vermont. That has led to a steep decline in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, prompting the Gaming Commission to lift capacity limits and other restrictions in late May.