We have heard the complaints from the Massachusetts legislature about Penn National’s slot parlor in Plainville, MA. The Plainridge Park Casino currently enjoys a slot machine monopoly in the state but is still struggling with declining revenues. The casino reported that its revenue for October 2016 declined by 5 percent when compared to October 2015. The casino, which cost $250 million to create, opened its doors to the public in June 2015 and brought in just $160 million in revenue during its first year of operation which was well short of the number that gaming analysts had estimated.
They have tried higher payoffs and more free slot play. It hasn’t seemed to work as well as they had hoped, but it’s only one year old.
Unfortunately, another negative was found recently.
A report issued Nov. 21 by the State Auditor’s Office is the first audit dealing with Plainridge Park, examining the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s oversight of the Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville. Auditor Suzanne Bump found the commission measured a little short in its duty to oversee the slots parlor, though the commission’s response has been appropriate.
The audit looked at hiring requirements Plainridge agreed to as part of its license. The audit’s findings show there is work to be done by both the licensee and the regulator. According to the terms of the license, the casino is supposed to hire 90 percent of its workers from the four Massachusetts towns abutting Plainville, and 10 percent of its employees, regardless of hometown, are to be of ethnic minority groups. The auditor found that only 36 percent of employees were local, and that there was no documentation to verify that 14 percent of the workforce was of ethnic minority, as the commission accepts the word of Plainridge officials.
The commission responded that the goal all along would take time to implement, and that gradual expansion of the boundaries for workers would help toward meeting the original goal. As an example, the commission noted that 65 percent of Plainville’s employees had come from within 20 miles of the facility, that 77 percent total were from in-state, and that it was pleased with the efforts despite coming short of the benchmark so far.
The audit also found that a technology glitch prevented some $65,000 from certain players’ winnings from getting to the Department of Revenue for back taxes and child support payments, and also that monthly jackpot reports had not gone to the revenue department. While the money has been recovered as a result of the auditor’s discovery, it’s disheartening to think that the commission’s lack of oversight favored gamblers over the children for whom some of those “winners” had responsibility.
Both of these infractions reinforces the need for more oversight of the casino by the MGC. To be fair, much of this regulatory framework is new to Massachusetts, and the work provided by the auditor has served taxpayers, potential employees, and children. The commission’s response has been cooperative and responsible, so it is our hope that the auditor’s example will inspire disciplined oversight of their charge in Plainville so their oversight of the Class 1 casinos, when they open, will be up to speed.
I feel that was the biggest reason to start with a slot parlor – get the regulatory kinks out of the way, hoping to be ready for MGM Springfield & Wynn Boston Harbor. That’s when they will have their hands full!