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Wynn Will Reopen Without Poker in Concession to New Pandemic Era

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 5/16/2020 Christopher Palmeri

(Bloomberg) -- When Wynn Resorts Ltd. gets the go-ahead to reopen casinos in Las Vegas and Boston, one of gambling’s most iconic games won’t be offered: poker.

It also won’t be as easy to play craps. At the company’s Encore Boston Harbor resort, the game will be allowed only in the high-limit area, where crowds are typically smaller. It’s all part of efforts to limit contact between patrons during the pandemic.

“We don’t in any way want to do anything we can’t execute as safely as possible,” Brian Gullbrants, president of Wynn’s Boston property, said in an interview this week on the Bloomberg Baystate Business radio program. “This is an evolving situation.”

The decisions by Wynn, one of the most prominent casino operators in the country, highlight the changes gamblers can expect when they return to resorts that have been closed for two months as a result of the coronavirus. Poker rooms are typically crowded, and the game is one of the least profitable for casinos.

Casino operators also plan to open with every other slot machine closed and will impose limits on how many people can play at a table. In some cases, they’ll do temperature checks. One post making the rounds on social media shows Hialeah Park Racing & Casino in Florida testing a poker table with customers wearing masks and playing behind a giant sneeze guard.

MGM Resorts International, the largest casino operator on the Las Vegas Strip, released plans earlier this week that showed sinks for hand-washing installed in the lobby of the Bellagio. The company is relying heavily on technology to make guests comfortable, such as online check-ins and mobile phones doubling as room keys at its hotels.

Masked Poker Face

The changes will present challenges for players. Can you read a competitors’ face in poker when it’s hidden behind a protective mask? Is it polite to blow on the dice before rolling in craps, as many people do for good luck?

Virtually all of the nearly 1,000 casinos in the U.S. were closed as result of the coronavirus, and 52 are open now, according to a running tally by the American Gaming Association.

Most of those that have opened are in smaller markets or on tribal land. Casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi, two relatively large markets, are expected to open next week.

Jay Snowden, chief executive officer of Penn National Gaming Inc., said in an interview Thursday that he expects as many as five states to let their casinos reopen this month, with most of the others following in June.

Penn’s 41 properties will open with half or less of their slot machines and tables available, Snowden said. Buffets will stay closed, and employees will wear masks, but he’s leaving it up to local authorities to decide if customers must as well.

Snowden said he was heartened by images of a fairly busy start in some markets that have reopened, such as Deadwood, South Dakota.

“It shows there is pent-up demand,” he said.

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