Encore Boston Harbor

Dealer Shortage Forces Encore Casino to Keep Poker Off the Table

The Everett casino, like many other businesses around the country, has had a hard time finding people to hire for open positions

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If Encore Boston Harbor was to reintroduce poker right now, as some of its guests have demanded, it would require the casino to close other table games because it cannot find enough people to hire as dealers, an executive told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday.

The state's two casinos -- Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield -- resumed mostly normal operations in late May without reintroducing poker and the Gaming Commission has taken notice of the 10-fold increase in complaints about the game's absence in the Bay State. The casinos have both said they will make decisions about the future of poker by the end of the year.

"To be clear, we did not say never to poker. We have said just not at this time. We're constantly readjusting our offerings based on guest demand," Jacqui Krum, Encore Boston Harbor's senior vice president and general counsel, said. She added, "Throughout this difficult time, we have really tried to be agile and responsive. However, we do have limited space, and the former poker area is currently occupied by some of our highest-performing slot machines."

The Everett casino, like many other businesses around the country, has had a hard time finding people to hire for open positions. Krum said Encore "simply cannot find enough dealers" or other workers and has been running dealer schools "almost non-stop."

Casinos can fully reopen over Memorial Day weekend in Massachusetts, when most COVID-19 restrictions and the state's mask mandate will also lift.

"Because of this labor crunch, reopening poker right now would necessitate the closure of other table games. We simply don't have the staff available to do both," she said. "We fully understand the impact of these changes to our valued guests, including our poker players, and if we could add another floor to the casino we would."

Bruce Band, the assistant director of the commission's Investigations and Enforcement Bureau and chief of the Gaming Agents Division, told commissioners Thursday that the number of complaints his staff receives about the lack of poker at Encore has gone from four or five a month to between 45 and 50 a month.

The commission decided that it would not take any action related to poker Thursday and commissioners said they wanted to give the casino operator deference to run the facility in a way that maximizes tax revenue to the state while also preserving the jobs that come with table games. Commissioners said they expect regular updates from Encore on the status of poker.

Copyright State House News Service
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