Over the weekend, casinos in Massachusetts began offering services at a lower capacity limit. The capacity levels were lowered due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the state. Because the virus is spread so easily from person to person, businesses that offer entertainment options must be restricted to how many people can be inside. For the casinos in the state, it will be a few weeks before we can see just how the properties are affected by the reduction.
New Capacity Limits
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, the casinos in Massachusetts shut down. The venues then reopened in July and were offering services at around 40% capacity. This was a huge hit for MGM Springfield as it meant only 3,000 people could be inside at one time, compared to 8,000 at full capacity.
The Encore Boston Harbor and Plainridge Park venues are not as large as the MGM property, so they were not affected in such high numbers. Now, with the new restrictions, the casinos must operate at 25% capacity. The number of people allowed in each venue will vary based on the capacity listed within the building permit.
Staff members count towards this number, so the player traffic is going to be cut down even more. For MGM Springfield, the total number of people now allowed on-site is 2,000. It will take a few weeks for the totals to come in and for us to see just how the lower capacity rates will affect the casino as a whole.
Horse racing simulcast parlors like those at Plainridge Park and Suffolk Downs are also affected by the 25% capacity limit. The restriction will stay in place through January 10. If the positive case counts do not increase, it would not be surprising to find the capacity rate extended.
Does It Matter?
Of course, the capacity numbers for each casino matters and the venues want to stay in business. But are people actually visiting? Are players comfortable visiting a casino during the pandemic? In the northeast, people are taking the COVID-19 virus very seriously. People are staying at home, wearing a mask and social distancing.
Going to a casino would seemingly be contradictory to what needs to be done at this time. Casinos are doing a good job to offer services in a safe and healthy environment. Masks are implemented and mandatory. Social distancing is encouraged, and barriers are in place to keep players separated from each other as well as from employees.
But is it enough for players to feel safe? This is a hard question to answer. We know that casinos are staying afloat but for how long? What will be the tipping point? Will it take another closure or will gaming venues be forced to close due to lower visitor numbers?
Only time will tell if the casinos in Massachusetts will be greatly affected by the capacity change. Now that a vaccine is in place, operators are hopeful that as more people are vaccinated, the virus will start to slow down and eventually die out.