Legislative Changes to Massachusetts Casino Liquor Sales Met with Mixed Reviews

by Jim Hall

MassachusettsA new budget signed by the Massachusetts state governor would allow new casinos to the state longer alcohol sale times, with many in opposition to this plan.

The state of Massachusetts is growing in terms of its gambling industry. Two new venues will be arriving in the next two years, each by major casino gambling companies. Despite having big brands behind the two new properties, the casinos will have to fight to be able to compete with neighboring states casinos that are already established.

MGM Resorts will be launching MGM Springfield in 2018 and Wynn Resorts will be opening the Wynn Boston Harbor in 2019. Both casinos will be big earners for the state but must be able to compete with other major resorts across the United States in order to bring in visitors from neighboring states as well as from further distances. In efforts to be more competitive, a proposal has been approved that will allow for longer alcohol sales for the two gaming venues, a move that has some lawmakers quite upset.

Increased Alcohol Sales

Governor of the state, Charlie Baker, signed a budget proposal on Monday that includes allowing the two new casinos to sell alcohol later than the standard time frame. All businesses with an alcohol license currently have to shut down their sales by 2 am. The change will allow the MGM and Wynn venues to continue with sales until 4 am.

Reportedly, it was the Wynn Boston Harbor that requested the provision be added to so that they could compete in a manner similar to Las Vegas. Wynn officials have stated that they are spending $2.4 billion on their new resort and want to be able to attract customers and meet expectations for 24 hour cocktails like venues offer in Las Vegas. As a concession, the casino officials agreed that being allowed to serve alcohol until 4 am was a nice compromise.

MGM Springfield supposedly did not play a role in the alcohol sale changes. The casino has yet to decide if they will apply the changes to their venue. In a statement, MGM revealed they are evaluating the opportunity to extend alcohol hours and will work with Springfield as well as the Gaming Commission in advancing a policy that will ensure the casino will be successful for the community and guests.

A Few Concerns

Several lawmakers have come forward to show concern for the alcohol sale changes. Senator Stan Rosenberg has been very vocal of his disapproval of the new proposal, worried that safety issues will arise. He also pointed out that the changes are unfair to restaurants and bars that still have to stop sales at 2 am.

The mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, is also concerned about the liquor sale changes. In an interview with the Boston Herald Radio program, Walsh stated that he fears individuals who are already out drinking at bars will then leave their location and head to the new casinos nearby. From Boston, the Wynn Boston Harbor is located in Everett. For patrons leaving late at night continue drinking, as Walsh believes they will, they will have to travel through Charlestown. The mayor feels the changes will put the area at risk.

The mayor is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 20 years and refers to his own experience in the matter. He feels that people will keep drinking and might be at risk if traveling while intoxicated.

It will be interesting to see if MGM ends up adding the two extra hours to their alcohol sales and if there is any impact from the rule changes, be it negative or positive.