Massachusetts casinos cleared to offer roulette games

BOSTON (AP) — Two Massachusetts casinos have been cleared by state gambling regulators to start offering roulette games again.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday unanimously voted to allow Encore Boston Harbor in Everett and MGM Springfield to offer roulette with modifications, including a limit of three players per table divided by plexiglass shields.

The state’s three casinos were closed for about four months because of the coronavirus pandemic, but were allowed to reopen in July at limited capacity.

Slots, blackjack and smaller poker games are now allowed, but capacity remains limited.

The state's third casino, Plainridge Park in Plainville, offers only electronic games.

Casinos in nearby states have already started offering roulette safely, the commission noted.

A spokesperson for Encore welcomed the decision.

“To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, we will continue to implement extensive health and disinfection procedures at roulette tables that are similar to protocols in place at our other table games,” he said.

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FALL SPORTS POSTPONED

The second largest city in Massachusetts has postponed all fall high school sports because the community's coronavirus transmission rate remains high.

Worcester officials on Thursday said fall sports including football, soccer and field hockey could now be played during an abbreviated season scheduled to start in late February called Fall II.

Worcester is one of dozens of communities in the state considered high-risk hotspots for the disease, according to the state Department of Public Health, meaning that the city's average daily case rate is higher than eight positive cases per 100,000 residents.

The decision affects six public schools and two parochial schools.

“I feel super bad for the kids and coaches,” Worcester Public Schools athletic director Dave Shea told The Telegram & Gazette. “It would have been more ideal to play now than in fall II, but when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of all our athletes, coaches and everyone involved, I have to side on caution and I have to listen to the people above me saying this is the best thing to do right now.”

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BIRX VISIT

Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force said Friday in a visit to Massachusetts that the rising number of cases in the Northeast is likely being fueled by small gatherings of family and friends containing people who have the virus but aren't showing symptoms.

“We take down our guard when we are with people we know,” Birx said outside the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which processes thousands of tests. “And we assume if we know you, you couldn’t have COVID.”

She also praised area colleges for their aggressive testing policies.

“It gives me really great hope to see how the college students have modified their behavior because they know what it takes to be safe,” she said.

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NEW CASE SURGE

The state Department of Public Health reported more than 730 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday, but that was out of nearly 19,600 people tested.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Massachusetts has now risen over the past two weeks from more than 409 per day on Sept. 24 to almost 581 per day on Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate has risen over the past two weeks from 0.65% on Sept. 24 to almost 1% on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins.

The state has now had more than 135,000 confirmed cases and 9,362 deaths.

The number of people currently hospitalized with the disease is 500, the department said.