September 21, 2020

Massachusetts to let arcades reopen next week, Gov. Charlie Baker says

Facing lawsuits from arcade owners, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Thursday he is signing an executive order to allow indoor and outdoor arcades to resume operations next week.

The Republican governor, delivering updates on his Shared Streets grant program, said the executive order will allow indoor and outdoor arcades to reopen instead of having to wait until Phase 4 to open their doors. Baker also plans to sign an executive order to extend the timeframe for municipal permitting for expanded outdoor dining.

“We hope this eases the burden on restaurants and extend their season for outdoor dining as well,” Baker said of the outdoor dining executive order. He did not immediately elaborate on the executive order on arcades.

The announcement comes a week after Salem-based Bit Bar sued the Baker administration.

Bit Bar accused Baker of violating the business’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, requiring it remain closed while casinos are allowed to reopen and turn on their slot machines in Phase 3.

Other arcade owners have expressed their concerns with the restrictions. On Aug. 27, Pintz Entertainment in Milford said it was “deeply disappointed” with Baker’s restrictions on arcades, claiming the state was basing who could reopen on potential tax revenue.

“Picking winners and losers based on potential tax revenue to the state is hugely unfair to small business,” the company wrote. “To this day our arcade remains closed but casinos, which offer essentially the same kind of gaming experience are open.”

Apex Entertainment in Marlborough received a cease-and-desist order from the Department of Labor Standards for allowing customers to use its games, according to state records.

Owner Robert Walker told CBS Boston he appealed the order but was denied. “You can go to a casino, and the state can share in their revenue stream, but we can’t open our arcade,” he said.

Walker is one of several plaintiffs on a state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Baker’s executive orders.

Related Content:

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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, calling Trump unemployment program not ‘sustainable,’ calls on Congress to reach deal

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