Casinos can fully reopen over Memorial Day weekend in Massachusetts, when most COVID-19 restrictions and the state's mask mandate will also lift.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted Wednesday to rescind the pandemic-related rules, effective at noon on Saturday, for the state's two casinos as well as horse racing and simulcasting facilities.
The new orders apply to the state's gaming areas: Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Plainridge Park, as well as Raynham Park and Suffolk Downs.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced last week that Massachusetts will rescind the state's current mask order and lift nearly all COVID-19 business restrictions effective Saturday, May 29, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
Representatives from each facility told the commission Wednesday they want to return to pre-pandemic operations as the governor lifts COVID-19 restrictions this weekend, subject to their ability to meet gambler demand.
"This would mean opening up every slot machine, every gaming table, restoring our restaurants to previous occupancy, restoring the occupancy of the gaming floor," Jacqui Krum, senior vice president at Encore Boston Harbor, said. She added, "We would allow fully vaccinated guests to not wear a mask, and we will continue to make complimentary masks available for guests to use."
Seth Stratton, vice president and general counsel of MGM Springfield, told commissioners after Krum's presentation, "We're just going to say 'me too' generally to what Jacqui said. We echo her comments."
Plainridge Park General Manager North Grounsell said the Plainville slots parlor wants "to be able to conduct any activity that is permissible by law and regulations for which the business demand is present and that we have the team members available to meet those first two requirements."
A return to pre-pandemic operations means a return to standard occupancy levels, the rebooting of all slot machines, table games with full complements of player seats, the removal of most plexiglass barriers and allowing fully vaccinated gamblers to go mask-free. It also means a return to pre-pandemic cocktail service and guests will no longer have to be seated to be served a beverage.
Though the commission voted to lift its restrictions as of 12:01 a.m. Saturday, all three facilities said the changes will not take effect with the flip of a switch.
Plainridge said it aims to start operating under the new landscape at 9 a.m. Saturday, and MGM and Encore said they likely will not take full advantage of the new allowances right away. For instance, both casinos said they probably won't open gaming area bars right at 12:01 a.m.
All three establishments said they will continue to adhere to all U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Mass. Department of Public Health and local health department guidelines and rules, and will continue to report any positive COVID-19 cases to the commission.
The commission thanked the casinos for their work to protect customers and staff over the last 15 months.
State House News Service contributed to this report.