Gaming Commission Bungled Rules on Booze

May 28, 2019

What good comes from having gamblers leave the Encore Boston Harbor casino at 4 a.m. after spending all night downing cocktails? Tipping back a martini at 3:59 a.m. and hitting the road by 4:05 a.m. seems troublesome.

But that will be the reality at the new resort as of June 23, when doors are expected to open. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 4-1 to allow patrons who are “actively gaming” to enjoy complimentary alcoholic beverages until that late (or early) hour.

As the Boston Herald’s Jonathan Ng reported, not everyone is happy . Eileen O’Brien, the lone commissioner to vote against the later last call, said it would have been wise to tackle early morning drinking a few months after the casino opened.

“My preference would be having this conversation in six months out from opening,” O’Brien said. “The density and size of this gives me pause. I remain in the same position I was when MGM asked, that my position at this point would not be inclined to allow the 2 to 4 (a.m.) — to see how things go before we go to that.”

Indeed, a waiting period would have been the wise course as the casino works out the kinks during its “shakedown cruise” period. After traffic and safety had been evaluated at the end of the summer, a decision based on the facts on the ground could be made.

But no matter. As Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said about the decision, “There’s nothing we can do about it.”

Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria had been gung-ho for the extended hours and had urged the commission in a letter to expand Encore’s alcohol service, saying it’s a perk “international visitors expect.”

He is right, of course, but it is not tourists from Europe who will have to contend with the fallout from the inevitable drunken driving that will occur — it is the people on the streets of the commonwealth of Massachusetts and surrounding states.

The Gaming Commission made a mistake in granting extended boozing hours to the Encore, and it should be prepared to make immediate adjustments if the situation proves to require it.

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