With legal pressure mounting from a federal lawsuit filed by Salem’s Bit Bar and one about to be filed in state court by counsel representing the industry’s Entertainment Coalition, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued an order at noon yesterday (9/10) that arcades can reopen as of 12:01 a.m. Sept. 17. Restrictions being placed on operations are unknown at this time, but as Family Entertainment Group’s George Smith said, “We’ve lost the summer season, but at least there’s some hope on the horizon for opening.”
Smith said the combined efforts of the group they assembled, the Entertainment Coalition (led by Betson New England’s Rick Kirby, Family Entertainment Group’s George Smith, David Breen of Pinz and Mike Crowley of Ryan Family Amusements, among others), was instrumental in getting this accomplished.
“The federal lawsuit filed by Bit Bar probably helped as well,” he continued. “The people who really involved themselves – all the people who helped with the funding to get this done – did a wonderful job.”
Smith explained, “The motivating factor was that we were about to file a lawsuit in state court.” The counsel the group retained advised them to take it to the attorney general first. “The attorney general came back the next morning and said the governor is going to issue an executive order. We thought it was going to be Monday, but they announced it today (Sept. 10) allowing arcades to open on Sept. 17. There will be restrictions that will be announced and again, we don’t know what those are as yet. But I think without question, the combined effect of what we did –– about to file in state court –– and what Bit Bar did by filing a similar but different suit in federal court, made all the difference in the world.”
Smith added, “Rick Kirby, David Breen and Mike Crowley have just been exceptional in making this all happen and I’m very proud of our group. We spent $100,000 to get this done so any donations will be gratefully accepted on behalf of everybody. Thankfully, it sounds like it’s going to be a positive outcome.”
Steve Belmonte of Patriot Vending & Amusements and Game Time Lanes and Entertainment also phoned into RePlay with the news. “We still don’t know what the restrictions are going to be –– maybe limited capacity or limited machines or whatnot – but at least things are moving in the right direction. Hopefully, there isn’t an uptick in cases…we just have to keep our fingers crossed. We’ve got to get some income coming in. It’s been nearly six months since we’ve basically had anything running so, we’ll see what happens.”
The new executive order covered an extension of outdoor dining as well as the opening of indoor and outdoor arcades. (You can read it in full here.) The text of the portion related to arcades reads:
“Effective at 12:01 am on September 17, 2020, indoor and outdoor gaming arcades may open their brick-and-mortar premises to workers, customers, and the public, and restaurants, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, and other enterprises with gaming devices on their premises may permit these devices to be used by patrons. Schedule A to COVID-19 Order No. 43 is hereby amended, as attached, to reflect this adjustment.
“The Director of the Department of Labor Standards (“DLS”) shall issue, subject to my approval, COVID-19 workplace safety rules to address the particular circumstances and operational needs of indoor and outdoor gaming arcades and other enterprises with gaming devices on their premises that are made available for use by patrons. These rules shall serve as “Sector-Specific Rules” for such activities and facilities as that term is defined in Section 4 of COVID-19 Order No. 43.”
Again, the industry is still waiting to learn what “sector-specific rules” will be applied to operations.
For more information, to get involved or to donate to the cause, reach out to Rick Kirby at Betson New England by phoning 781-821-8533 or call George Smith at 847-842-6310 (email [email protected]).
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