Casinos, Mayor Tell Massachusetts To Take It Easier On Convicts

Casino employees undergo an intense amount of scrutiny. Gaming commissions vet high-level casino executives. Casinos subject just about any gaming employee to drug tests and background checks too. In other words, the industry takes extreme measures to ensure safety and security when it comes to gambling. However, after a recent meeting of the Massachusetts Casino Commission, the state might loosen some of these strict regulations. Gaming commission strict about past criminal records During the May 25 meeting of the commission, a chief discussion point became the standards for casino employment. Casino representatives acknowledged the need for strict requirements of gaming employees. Where they want some leeway is non-gaming jobs. In particular, the company would like more employment opportunities for applicants with criminal records. “Why would the legislature hold the CEOS of MGM and Wynn to the same licensing standard as an entry- level dishwasher,” MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis asked. At the forthcoming MGM Springfield property, 1,000 of the 3,000 jobs at the Massachusetts casino have no connection to gaming. The company wants to offer these opportunities to a more diverse group of applicants, since the nature of the jobs do not require a squeaky-clean record. Currently, the state’s Gaming Act includes a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) background check. The list of crimes which pop up on CORI checks include serious felonies as well as a number of misdemeanors like minor drug possession and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The CORI disqualifier in the Gaming Act restricts MGM and other Massachusetts casinos from hiring many interested applicants. Springfield mayor agrees with casinos The casinos are not the only group advocating for change in the Gaming Act either. Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno also spoke at the meeting and sided with the casinos. “The irony here is that I am a law and order mayor, but where it makes sense, some flexibility should be explored, and where appropriate, allowed,” Sarno said. Sarno also cited the high unemployment rate in Springfield as a reason to consider change. The county’s unemployment rate is significantly higher than the rest of the state. Moreover, the high CORI standards tend to unduly affect minorities and impoverished residents. A group of City Council members for Springfield also signed a letter backing up Sarno and MGM, as did numerous local leaders. One opponent was MA House Speaker Robert Deleo, who thinks casinos should wait until casinos open. Once that happens, the group can assess how the employment laws are working. How to change the casino employment laws? The Casino Commission did not vote on the issue during the meeting. Part of the reason they did not is because the group is unsure if they have the authority to make such a change. Yes, the group oversees casino development in the state. However, since the Gaming Act established these employment standards, there are concerns the changes must be done at a legislative level. Photo by 4kclips / Shutterstock.com

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