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Massachusetts Gambling Officials Criticize Casinos For Small Poker Rooms

Number Of Poker Tables In The State Down To A Quarter Of Previous Tally


Casino gambling regulators in Massachusetts held a hearing Thursday that featured some critical comments about the state of live poker cash games in the Bay State.

It’s not the first time officials have commented on growing resentment among some poker players in the state that live poker hasn’t returned to what it was like pre-pandemic.

According to comments from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, there is still some lingering displeasure about the number of tables available between the state’s two Las Vegas-style casinos, both of which opened a handful of years ago.

“A lot of people love to play this game and they’re very disappointed that we only have, if I’m doing this right, 27 tables throughout the entire commonwealth,” Commissioner Brad Hill said.

“Just disappointed is all I can say at this point,” he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic shuttered both casinos and their respective poker rooms in mid-2020, and the offering hasn’t fully recovered since despite the availability of vaccines.

Encore Boston Harbor has 12 tables, according to its website, and MGM Springfield has 14. Encore is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m.–8 p.m., according to its website. MGM Springfield’s poker room is open daily from 11 a.m.-3.a.m.

Regulators were also a bit critical of the operating hours.

Encore previously considered closing the room permanently, which received some pushback from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in 2021.

Encore, a property from Wynn Resorts, reopened its poker room in February 2022.

“Based on current market conditions and the resulting need to prioritize space, Encore Boston Harbor will not be bringing back live poker at this time," the casino said in a statement in July 2021. “If and when poker should return to Encore, it will likely be at a reduced capacity.”

Statewide, there’s roughly a quarter of the tables there once was. MGM Springfield opened its poker room in 2018 with 23 tables, while Encore opened in 2019 with 74 tables.

Below is the MGC hearing from Thursday, with the poker discussion at the start of the meeting.