The Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Investigation and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) issued a Notice of Non-Compliance to Encore Boston Harbor for overserving patrons alcohol on three different occasions in August and September. It was the first Notice of Non-Compliance for Encore on the improper service of alcohol, but the second Notice to the license-holder since September. The casino received a different Notice of Non-Compliance for not properly putting a stop to a large party in their hotel that violated COVID-19 guidelines last September.
The Notice of Non-Compliance is like a first-warning and paves the way to a fine if the situation is repeated. It also goes on the permanent record of the licensee and is seen as a warning sign by the MGC and the management of the casino. The Notice was issued on Dec. 4 and came after an investigation of overserving patrons alcohol on Aug. 2, Aug. 29 and Sept. 4. The MGC discussed the matter in depth at its Dec. 17 meeting. “Today marks a serious note for Encore,” said Chair Judd-Stein.
“This is a serious notice for our licensees that goes on as part of their record. I have confidence in the folks at Encore they will take this as seriously as our team took it.”
Said MGC Executive Director Karen Wells, “This issue takes on an additional dimensions in the pandemic because public health protocols and patrons’ ability to adhere to masks and hygiene practices – intoxication can get in the way of that. It impacts people like security and the Gaming Enforcement Unit when at a greater risk when they have to interact with these patrons.”
Encore’s Jacqui Krum said the moment is a learning experience and they have worked with the IEB for the past several months to put in new protocols to prevent overserving. “With any incident you learn and grow and that’s what happened here,” she said. “We need to increase communication between our gaming department and our customer service department.” In all three incidents, the IEB said it should have been rather obvious that the patron not be served. In the Aug. 29 incident, which was the most serious, a person sitting at the slot machines was clearly intoxicated and shouldn’t have been served again.
However, the person was served around 3:09 a.m. After that, he fell from his seat and hit his head. The man was treated at the First Aid Station for the injury to his head. In the incidents on Aug. 2 and Sept. 4, the casino staff violated the drink limit on the gaming floor – which is no more than three drinks in one hour. In the first incident, the patron was served four drinks in an hour, and the second one the patron was served five drinks in an hour. Both incidents resulted in violent altercations with security. On Sept. 4, the overserved patron began confronting other patrons and starting fights – plus he refused to wear a mask.
He was eventually arrested for Disorderly Conduct by the State Police. Encore has already re-trained servers on the TIPS program, and have disciplined employees that overserved. They have also created a white board system to keep better track of drink service to patrons, and hope to take that system to an electronic platform so servers can communicate easier on the floor. •MYSTIQUE SHUTS DOWN The Mystique Restaurant in Encore shut down until January voluntarily after an event in the restaurant on Dec. 6 got a little too close for comfort in regards to COVID-19 protocols. The restaurant had an approved Industry Night event there for people in the hospitality business, and there was also a Patriots football game – both of which drew larger crowds that expected.
However, the restaurant did not in any way violate occupancy limits. Instead, as the night wore on, some in the event began to mingle at other tables, not wear masks and carry drinks around the area. Those things are all prohibited by the protocols. When things appeared to be out of control, the restaurant management decided to suddenly close down the site at 8:30 p.m., with everyone out by 9:10 p.m. “Management closed down the restaurant that night and they don’t expect to re-open until 2021,” said Loretta Lillios of the IEB.
“That decision really makes moot any disciplinary action…It was a responsible move they took at this difficult time. It cannot be tolerated.” Commissioners asked that the restaurant appear before the IEB or the MGC before re-opening in 2021 to discuss the layout of the facility in regards to COVID guidelines in place at that time. “It’s disappointing the behavior of the patrons has led to the restaurant shutting down until 2021 and affected the livelihood of those working there,” said Judd-Stein. •COVID CASES FROM OUTSIDE The MGC took a report on the numbers of cases in all three casinos amongst employees since the June 23 re-opening statewide. So far, there have been 80 positive cases of COVID reported from employees at all three gaming locations, and there was no breakdown of how many came from Encore. Investigators said most of the cases were traced and all seemed to have come from the home environment – particularly traced to a household member that was positive.
“We have seen no concerning trends in cases at onsite areas of the casinos,” said Lillios. •LAST DAY FOR STEBBINS Commissioner Bruce Stebbins announced his last meeting at the MGC, after having been one of the first commissioners chosen for the fledgling agency many years ago. Stebbins, who is from western Massachusetts, was a key vote in choosing Encore over Suffolk Downs back in the 2015 licensing decision. Now, only Commissioners Gayle Cameron and Enrique Zuniga are left from that vote. Stebbins is moving to work at the Cannabis Control Commission – another fledgling state agency now getting off the ground.