The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said Thursday that it had sent Encore Boston Harbor a notice of noncompliance with state COVID-19 standards after a large party in one of the Everett casino’s hotel suites had to be broken up by police.
The regulatory body sent the notice on Aug. 20, four days after the party that authorities said drew more than 100 people. The state limits indoor gatherings to 8 people per 1,000 square feet, or a maximum of 25. Commission staff added that Encore had responded quickly and had made changes intended to make sure such an incident does not happen again.
Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein emphasized that the regulatory body’s jurisdiction extends beyond the gaming floor and into other aspects of casinos’ business — including hotels. She said Encore and other facilities must adhere to the strict limits put in place as a condition of reopening after a four-month closure spurred by the pandemic.
“The stakes are too high for anything but full compliance with those safety standards,” Judd-Stein said during a commission meeting held via teleconference Thursday.
Encore said previously that it has implemented new standards to keep hotel rooms from becoming overcrowded. The casino said it would levy a $3,000 fine against guests with more than four people in a room or eight in a two-bedroom suite. The resort said it has also stepped up security patrols and is aggressively monitoring how much food and drink is being brought up to rooms.
State Police officers, who broke up the party, said a 23-year-old Dracut man faces a criminal summons for allegedly disturbing the peace. He also could be fined $500 for violations of state COVID-19 rules.
According to gaming commission staff, the host of the party rented the room on Aug. 15, received three key cards, and then began bringing people up in small groups. Around midnight, someone called hotel management to report that they saw posts on social media showing a party attended by about 100 people.
Soon after, a butler at Encore reported that he had made a delivery to the suite and saw that it was over capacity, commission staff said, and management called the room to order the host to clear out his guests. The commission said 36 people left at that time, but the party continued. Someone else then called management, threatening to alert the board of health.
At about 3 a.m. on Aug. 16, Encore security alerted State Police. At that time, the police said, there were still about 110 people partying, “including a DJ and adult dancers,” plus “a large amount of alcohol.”
Commission member Gayle Cameron said during the meeting that it is clear that Encore needed stronger standards.
“This is much more serious than a guest being disturbed by noise, and certainly whatever measures they had before were not effective enough,” she said.
State regulators monitoring the casino told the commission Encore management made significant efforts to shore up safety following the party.
Bruce Band, assistant director of investigations and enforcement, noted that several people had canceled their reservations at the front desk when they were told of the strict rules on gatherings. Encore has also broken up several smaller gatherings that did not violate state standards but were above the casino’s own limits.
“Encore seems to be holding fast to their new rules and really sticking to their guns about what they’re trying to get their guests to abide by them,” Band said. “I was impressed, because that’s not easy to do with your loyal guests.”