Sanitized dice after each shooter. Temperature checks at the door. How Encore Boston Harbor plans to keep people safe once it reopens.

Gambling amid the coronavirus pandemic won't look the same as it did before.

People fill the casino floor at Encore Boston Harbor during its grand opening, June 23, 2019. Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe, File

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Here’s something you can bet on: When Encore Boston Harbor reopens, gambling inside the Everett casino will be different than in the pre-coronavirus pandemic era.

The resort recently released plans outlining its health and sanitation program for reopening, detailing protocols spanning a vast spectrum of precautions, from distancing guests between slot machines and forgoing buffet-style restaurant service to frequent HVAC air filter replacements and an hourly sanitizing schedule for elevator buttons.

“This plan presents what we will do to keep our guests, employees and our community safe,” Matt Maddox, CEO of Wynn Resorts, said in a statement. “Each operating department has its own customized set of procedures, even further detailed than the more than 20-page summary presented here. It relies on the best available science on sanitization methods, in consultation with professional infectious disease experts from some of the best academic institutions in the country. We will continue to refine and update the plan as our experts provide us more advice.”


The resort closed its doors to customers on March 15, days after it began certain safeguards to protect guest and employee health as the pandemic emerged. According to Maddox, Wynn Resorts will continue to pay its full and par-time employees amid the shutdown through May 31.

The company supports a phased reopening of the state economy, Maddox said.

On Monday, Gov. Charlie Baker offered a general outline for how his administration plans to reopen the state economy in four phases, beginning May 18 should local metrics on the COVID-19 pandemic decline as needed.

“We’re all focused on getting to that place, but we have to ensure that when we take one step forward we do not end up taking two steps back,” he said.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted on May 1 to extend its temporary closures of the state’s three casinos through that time.

“The timeline to reopen is still uncertain; however, our attention is now focused on developing a responsible restart plan and maximizing this time to establish guidelines, in coordination and collaboration with key stakeholders, including the three licensees, state and local leaders, and public health officials,” commission chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said in a statement following that meeting. “We will leverage our internal expertise and lessons learned from other jurisdictions. Additionally, we will closely monitor guidance under development by the governor’s Reopening Advisory Board.”


Maddox said resorts should reopen in Massachusetts “with extensive safety measures in place” as long as the state is in line with its benchmarks, is past the initial phase of reopening, and is closely monitoring coronavirus case data.

“We have worked with state and local officials to provide thoughts and a plan on a phased approach to reopen the economy, based on benchmarks of disease growth, ICU capacity and testing positivity rates,” he said. “We now face a new, rapidly decelerating curve we must ‘flatten.’ Our economy is in a free fall. It is imperative to flatten this curve so we can re-emerge in a safe, sustainable way.”

Here are a few takeaways on what guests can expect from Encore’s health and safety plan for reopening:

A temperature check (or two) will happen at the door

Guests entering the resort will be monitored by security teams using thermal cameras, allowing them to conduct non-invasive temperature checks, according to the plan.

“Anyone displaying a temperature over 100.4°F will be taken to a private area for a secondary temporal temperature screening,” Encore said. “Employees or guests confirmed to have a temperature over 100.4°F will not be allowed entry to the property and will be directed towards appropriate medical care.”

Staff will also ask arriving guests to use hand sanitizer and to wear a resort-provided mask. Signs displayed throughout the property will highlight proper mask usage and physical distancing practices.


These protocols are among the vast attention to detail the new welcome process will entail, the plan indicates.

Arriving guests will not lay a finger on the front doors, nor will employees open car doors for clientele. The bell cart will be sanitized between guests. Encore-operated limousines will be limited to four people, while limo sedan services will be capped at two guests.

Boats and buses will run with a 25 percent capacity limit with designated seating.

Upon check-in, guests will be given masks, hand sanitizer, and a COVID-19 “awareness card,” according to Encore.

“An employee will be present to sanitize the button panels (on hotel guest elevators) at regular intervals, at least once per hour,” the plan says.

Everything from hotel rooms to slot machines will be reconfigured for physical distancing

Encore says it’s prepared to “meet or exceed” state and local health authority guidelines when it comes to physical distancing.

Restaurants and bars will have reduced seating capacities so there’s at least six feet between each party. Any customer line in the resort will include clear markings for where guests should stand. And, of course, slot machines will be either turned off or rearranged to separate players from one another.

“Table games will have chairs removed to allow for safe distance
between players and dealers,” the safety plan says. “All players will be required to be seated at gaming tables to play with the exception of roulette and craps.”

The resort says guest room assignments will be spaced out “to limit the number of individuals per floor in the hotel and limit possible interactions in hallways and elevators” whenever possible.


Convention and meeting spaces will be arranged with distancing in mind based off federal and state recommendations — and self-serve buffet food service will be a thing of the past.

Dice will be sanitized for each new shooter

Casino games and materials will be heavily sanitized under the plan.

For table games, the protocol outlines measures to have employees sanitize dice for each new shooter, each chair whenever a guest leaves a game, and the roulette wheel, ball, and dolly whenever a new dealer steps in, among dozens of other steps.

Poker operations will follow similar procedures; however, the casino said poker will not be offered until a later phase of the reopening process. Possible chip sanitation techniques are still being reviewed “pending expert guidance,” the plan says.

At slot machines, attendants will offer to sanitize slots for players, with machines sanitized by glove-clad employees at least once every four hours, at minimum, among other actions.

“Casino supervisors and managers will ensure that guests do not congregate in groups,” the protocol says. “Temporary plexiglass partitions will be installed on specific table games as an additional safety measure.”

Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the casino floor.

Reopening the nightclub will take some time

While the safety plan maps out specifics for the resort’s restaurants, bars, and in-room dining service, how exactly Mémoire, Encore Boston Harbor’s nightclub, will manage the reopening is still in the works.

An Encore Boston Harbor spokesperson told Monday the opening date will be at a later date “to be determined” compared to the rest of the resort due to the difficulty in having guests physically distance in a club environment. Reopening plans are therefore “pending guidance from local authorities and medical experts,” the document says.


Maddox, in his statement, said he understands that even with an incremental opening, the resort may have to “pull back” on its operations.

Doing so may be needed if, for example, “a spike in cases occurs that jeopardizes the healthcare system capacity.”

“However, the only way to cross this river is one stone at a time and we need to begin soon,” he said.


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