It was not without a little bit of grumbling from operators, but the Massachusetts Gaming Commission finalized its minimum health and safety standards for the reopening of the state's slots parlor and resort casinos Tuesday.
The commission had already settled on a number of requirements last week — no poker, craps or roulette until further notice, blackjack-style gaming tables will be capped at three players, and players must wear something to cover their nose and mouth upon entry and while in the gaming area, except to have a drink — but ironed out the final details before unanimously adopting the guidelines Tuesday.
There were four issues left unresolved from last week: how to enforce the commission's plan to limit drink service — and therefore an exception to the mask rule — to people actively gambling, how to best ensure either appropriate distance or a physical barrier between slot machines, what height the physical barriers at table must be, and how to set overall building occupancy limits.
Commissioners agreed that players will not be allowed to carry or drink a beverage while moving around on the gaming floor and that the licensees must make all reasonable efforts to ensure guests do not violate that rule. Some commissioners said they were concerned that allowing guests to walk around with a drink in hand would be too similar to a bar, which are not allowed to open until Phase 4 of the state's reopening.
Seth Stratton, vice president and general counsel of MGM Springfield, told the commission that his company understands not wanting to have gamblers lowering their masks to drink a beverage while walking around the gaming floor, but does not see the wisdom behind barring guests from simply carrying their drink to another gaming position.
"Walking around with a drink, that's a bit more challenging for us and harder to understand the public health concern of someone with a mask on carrying their drink from one position to another without consuming that drink," he said. "That's probably where our biggest challenge lies."
The commission also agreed to require that there be either six feet of distance between active slot machines or that the licensees install a plexiglass or similar barrier at least six feet high between machines. For table games, plexiglass barriers separating dealers and players, and players from other players, will have to be at least 5-feet and 10-inches high.
For occupancy limits, the commission settled on a formula that will count the number of active gaming positions available, multiply it by three, and then add in the number of gaming floor area employees and the capacity of casino amenities like restaurants as calculated by existing state reopening regulations.