Encore Boston Harbor will finally resume its live poker operations in February 2022, but with limited capacity and shortened operating hours, something that does not sit well with many local players.
Encore Boston Harbor, which is owned by Wynn Resorts, announced the reopening of its poker room shortly after MGM Springfield returned to offering poker games on October 29. The two casinos are the only ones running poker games in Massachusetts.
Live poker had been absent in the state for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic which forced the closure of non-essential businesses including casinos across the US and the globe. Encore Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield shut their doors in March 2020 and while both properties resumed their operations months after, their poker rooms had remained closed.
Encore Only Wants to Satisfy Gaming Regulator
Locals have been wanting and waiting to return to the live felts as reflected in the long lines of players who patiently queued up just to get back in action when MGM Springfield reintroduced their poker games in October.
Players will finally have another place to go for live poker come February 2022 with the reopening of Encore Boston Harbor’s poker room, but some issues need to be addressed.
Locals are questioning the casino’s decision to open fewer poker tables. Just 12 tables will be available, down from the 74 tables that were in operation before the COVID-19 pandemic. The venue will also only run poker games from 10 am to 8 pm, Monday – Thursday. Pre-pandemic, the Encore poker room operated 24/7.
Encore Addresses Concerns
With these changes, players are claiming that Encore only wanted to satisfy the gaming board. But according to Rosie Abrams, the company’s Executive Director for Public Relations, they have always said that they would decide on the casino’s poker operations before December 31, 2021, and they were able to fulfill that when they made their reopening announcement on November 4.
Abrams also said that they’re currently dealing with staffing issues, which is one of the reasons why the poker room will not yet return to its normal operations. Abrams said they cannot bring back poker at its pre-pandemic capacity and regular schedule considering their current business and staffing levels.
Bad Beat Jackpot Will Be Paid Out to Players
As to the still unpaid bad beat jackpot, Abrams assured the funds will be paid out to the affected players upon the poker room’s reopening under a similar promotion.
The players were supposed to be awarded the money upon winning and losing a qualified hand. But when the room ceased its operations in 2020, many were still left unpaid and some are worried they’ll end up not seeing that money.
One player accused the casino of not being transparent on where the money went or whether or not players can still expect to receive the jackpot funds. The casino allegedly would only reply with “Just call us” to player inquiries regarding the status of the bad beat jackpot.
Another player claimed that the Encore poker room is only doing the “bare minimum” to satisfy the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, adding that the main reason why they’re running 12 tables was to get the gaming board off their back. The same player also accused the poker room of holding on to more than $1 million in bad beat jackpot money, and the players have been kept in the dark as to the status of the funds.
Players will know whether or not Encore will fulfill their promise of reimbursing the money to them when the room reopens next year.