MGM Springfield Underage Gambling Problems Dampen Massachusetts Casino’s Initial High Turnout, COO Blames ‘Porous’ Design
MGM Springfield is surpassing early expectations in terms of the number of people visiting Massachusetts’ first casino resort. But MGM casino executives admit that they’ve had issues with minors finding their way onto the gaming floor, which is not exactly the most comforting news to area residents.
MGM Springfield president and COO Michael Mathis told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday that the resort is attracting 25,000 people per day during the week, rising to as many as 50,000 visitors on weekend days.
Mathis described the casino as “a very mixed-use, downtown, porous design.” Merriam-Webster offers a definition of the word that means “capable of being penetrated,” which probably describes almost every edifice in the free world. But Mathis is selling the idea that this is why MGM Springfield has had issues controlling teens on the floor.
Keeping an Eye on Gamblers
Mathis claims that this so-called open-air, “porous” design has created an unexpected challenge: difficulty in ensuring that underage patrons don’t have access to the gaming floor. MGM Springfield officials told regulators that there was a mix of intentional non-gaming areas in the venue, and inadvertent violations by visitors who don’t understand the exact age limits or where children are allowed to be was causing the problems.
“We’re stopping them and we’re trying to increase our communication around that,” Mathas told the commission. “We’ve got some parents that are choosing to leave their children in different parts of the resort while they game and we’ve identified that issue and it is a big problem for us and it is a big problem for the experience.”
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Steven Crosby acknowledged that the state had asked for a resort that included more than just gaming to attract a wide range of visitors.
“[The problem] is, in part, due to what we asked you to do,” Crosby said. “So we’ll stick with you while you figure out how to fix it.”
But Vegas casinos have been “mixed use” for decades, and the responsibility for monitoring who’s on the gaming floor has always remained — first and foremost — with the casino and security staff. In fact, both Nevada and East Coast-based casinos have faced fines for allowing underage gamblers to play, without the warm and fuzzy free pass like that given to MGM by Crosby.
More Bad News They Can’t Use
Mathis outlined some of the steps that MGM Springfield was taking to correct the underage access problem. Unattended minors are now banned from the venue, with anyone under 16 considered to be a minor for those purposes. In addition, there is now a midnight curfew for the resort. After midnight, only those 21 or older or those who are hotel guests are allowed in the complex.
The acknowledgement of underage gambling at MGM Springfield comes at a time when the company is struggling to generate positive press. MGM Resorts has been heavily criticized for its decision to file lawsuits against the victims of the October 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, a decision that CEO Jim Murren was forced to defend even at the opening of their Springfield resort last month.
MGM took more heat earlier this week when they offered to make $500 donations to charity for each plaintiff who accepted legal notice from the corporation without having to be personally served. MGM is not seeking damages from victims of the shooting, but is hoping to consolidate all litigation against the company into a single federal case.