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Regulators clear Mass. casinos to drop most COVID-19 restrictions

People played slots in at Plainridge Park in 2019.
People played slots in at Plainridge Park in 2019.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted Wednesday to allow the state’s three casinos to drop most of the protocols put in place to contain COVID-19, as long as the facilities continue to follow broader state public health regulations.

The change, effective Saturday, means Encore Boston Harbor, Plainridge Park Casino, and MGM Springfield will be allowed to lift reduced=capacity restrictions that have been in place for months. They can also resume poker games, which have been on hold, and remove plexiglass dividers that were mandated by the commission.

Casinos, under the commission’s 4-0 decision, will also be able to move in line with the broader relaxation of pandemic standards set by Governor Charlie Baker’s administration. Starting Saturday, the state will no longer requires masks for vaccinated people, though the unvaccinated are still advised to wear face coverings when social distancing isn’t possible.

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The commission made similar changes for the horse-racing industry.

The gambling industry has been slowly reopening after having been closed for four months early in the pandemic, gradually adding back games that were off-limits because of social-distancing requirements. Gaming revenue has returned to pre-pandemic levels, despite the capacity restrictions.

The commission left some requirements in place. Casinos will have to continue to have a pandemic safety officer onsite, and they still must tell regulators about positive COVID-19 tests related to their businesses.

“It’s been 15 months since the Gaming Commission convened with all three casino licensees in a virtual setting to discuss the rapid reach of the coronavirus pandemic,” chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said in a statement. “The three gaming licensees have cooperated fully throughout this process, working always to serve the public’s interests and protect their patrons and employees.”


Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.