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MGM Springfield gets approval for in-person sports betting, denies fudging employee diversity stats

A laptop featuring an online sports betting website.
Elizabeth Román
A laptop featuring an online sports betting website.

The MGM Springfield casino on Monday was awarded a license to take sports bets in person. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission signed off on the license in a unanimous vote.

Regulators previously had requested more information from the casino about its proposed sports-betting operation. Some commissioners called into question a vendor relationship the casino plans to have with its related company, Bet MGM, which is also seeking a separate mobile sports gambling license.

The plan calls for Bet MGM to handle several operational tasks at the Springfield sports book. Questions lingered about how regulators should separate the applicants, as Bet MGM's proposal had yet to be considered by the commission.

"I think all of the issues we'd be concerned about in connection with [Bet MGM's mobile platform] application, they're present and very much an issue in their role as a vendor for MGM Springfield," Commissioner Nakisha Skinner said.

Attorney Jed Nosal, representing MGM, told commissioners they needed to approve the casino's suitability, not that of their vendor.

"There is more than substantial evidence, in fact, there's substantial evidence that we have maintained ... by clear and convincing evidence, the suitability of the company," Nosal said.

Some commissioners agreed the casino needed to be judged on its own, and Bet MGM still needed to go through the vendor approval process, which is separate from getting its own mobile betting license.

In the end, Skinner asked for an executive session to discuss how MGM Springfield and Bet MGM would share the data of customers. After the private session, the commission quickly moved to approve the license.

The gaming commission is targeting late January to open in-person sports betting at the state’s casinos. Before wagers can be accepted, an operations certificate and other conditions must be met by the facilities.

Lawsuit, host community agreement both come up

During various points of the meeting, speakers addressed a lawsuit against MGM Springfield and complaints from some leaders in Springfield that the casino is not meeting its obligations to the city.

A recent civil lawsuit filed by former employee Chelan Brown claimed MGM retaliated against her for calling employee diversity numbers into question.

Nosal, MGM's attorney, told the commission the allegations are false and doubled down on the casino's hiring practices.

"MGM Springfield's workforce is over 50% minority ... based and with the largest single concentration of team members coming from Springfield," Nosal said. "Over 70% of the Springfield workforce identifies itself as diverse."

Nosal noted the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination dismissed a complaint filed by Brown in the matter.

At the outset of the meeting, the commission's chair, Cathy Judd-Stein, addressed public comments raising concerns that MGM Springfield has failed to meet the terms of its agreement with Springfield.

Some officials, including state Rep. Bud Williams, have expressed disappointment the casino has not created as many jobs as promised and fell well short of revenue projections, among other concerns.

"We have received a number of public comments from members of the Springfield community relative to MGM Springfield compliance with its host community agreement," Judd-Stein said. "However, that matter is not directly before the commission today as we review the application which has been submitted for a license ... for sports wagering."

Judd-Stein said the commission will "keep this issue in mind if it becomes relevant" to the licensing for sports betting.

But besides than the comments about Brown's lawsuit, no other concerns about MGM's host community agreement were discussed during Monday’s meeting.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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