With Poker games seemingly in no position to return to Massachusetts casinos any time soon, many former Poker dealers at Encore Boston Harbor have begun to train for other permitted games like Blackjack.
Encore Spokesman Eric Kraus said that 70 Poker dealers at Encore have participated in a new program offered by the company to train for other permitted games, those mostly being Blackjack.
“Because we shut down the Poker Room and furloughed several of those Poker Room employees, we have started training those Poker dealers and others with game experience in dealing. We are offering them to train on Blackjack dealing mostly. We don’t like furloughing employees. They are family members. So, we tell them about all open positions and see if anyone furloughed is a good fit for those positions. If they’re furloughed and would be a good fit, we can bring them back to open positions. We invest a lot in our employees, whether finding them, training them and keeping them. We don’t want them to leave during a furlough.”
He said there are approximately 70 dealers of Poker that are or have re-trained for Blackjack, one of the only table games now allowed in the state.
At the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) meeting last Thursday, the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) gave one of its first updates on the possibility of returning Poker, and the long and short of that is Poker is currently not possible.
The IEB explained that Poker requires many people at the table to be worthwhile and profitable for the casino, and at the moment the best that can be done is four players at a time.
“In order to make Poker a safe game, we could put only about four people at a table,” said one of the members. “In discussions with operators, this would mean Poker would not be profitable. At this point, we wouldn’t recommend Poker until we can get more players at the table and do that safely.”
The IEB indicated some other states with gaming are returning Poker and allowing many people at a table. With COVID-19 restrictions as they are, it isn’t a course the MGC is willing to forge.
“That’s not what I would consider a safe situation for employees or players,” he said. “Poker at its heart is a marginally profitable game for casinos. We would at best get four players at a table and that’s a very, very low profit, it at all a profit, for casinos.”
At Encore, the Poker Room and Poker areas have largely been repurposed to accommodate more Blackjack tables at greater distances.