BOSTON (SHNS) – Gaming regulators resumed on Monday their consideration of MGM Springfield’s sports betting license applications and a new wrinkle emerged — the city’s worry that it is not getting its full due from the casino and a lawsuit alleging that the casino has not been wholly honest about its employment diversity status.
Earlier this month, the Gaming Commission deferred a decision on MGM Springfield’s in-person sports betting application when regulators felt that it was not detailed enough. Since then, and as the commission has begun to consider the mobile betting license that would be tied to the Springfield casino, city leaders have voiced concerns that the state’s first resort-style casino is already not living up to the promises it made to the Springfield community when the gambling giant moved into Massachusetts.
“It is true that a variety of the amenities that were contemplated in the HCA [host community agreement] and the referendum are not currently being realized to their full potential,” Springfield City Councilor Mike Fenton, who chairs the council’s Casino Oversight Committee, said in a recent interview with WAMC radio.
When MGM Springfield opened in 2018, casino officials said the project would support about 3,000 permanent jobs. But in its most recent quarterly report to the Gaming Commission, the Springfield casino said that it had 1,330 employees, including about 100 MGM staff members who work at the Mass Mutual Center. Before the pandemic forced a months-long closure of the state’s casinos, MGM Springfield had hit a high of roughly 2,500 employees.
Gaming commissioners have also been keeping a close eye on the game mix at MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor. Both casinos were slow to reintroduce poker — a popular game with players that is not not very profitable for the casinos — after the pandemic and brought the game back with fewer tables.
WAMC also reported that a former diversity manager at MGM Springfield has filed a lawsuit claiming that she was demoted and then fired after going to upper management with complaints that diversity reports sent to the commission were not accurate. MGM Springfield officials staunchly denied the allegations Monday and said they would move to dismiss the suit once they are served.
At the outset of a meeting Monday that will include further consideration of MGM Springfield’s in-person betting application, commission chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said that the commission is aware of the concerns in Springfield, but also essentially set them aside for the time being.
“We have received a number of public comments from members of the Springfield community relative to MGM Springfield compliance with its host community agreement. That agreement was executed as part of the casino licensing process and adherence to the terms of the host community agreement or condition of licensure under Chapter 23K. However, that matter is not directly before the commission today as we review the application which has been submitted for a license under Chapter 23N for sports wagering,” Judd-Stein said. “We may and will, however, keep this issue in mind if it becomes relevant to any of the factors we will evaluate as part of the sports wagering licensure process.”
Springfield Rep. Bud Williams said last week that he wanted to get city leaders and casino officials together to hash out some of the frustrations that are “simmering in the community.” He also expressed disappointment that there is no Springfield-area representative on the Gaming Commission. “I share the community’s disappointment with MGM. From their overall performance in comparison to what was promised from day one of the opening dates, to the actual workforce hired, projected revenues, minority participation, redevelopment of certain buildings, and qualified management at the Springfield site by the parent company. What we have is NOT what was promised,” Williams, who was a city councilor when the casino’s HCA was approved, said