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Hiring, diversity reporting become issues during MGM Springfield's sports betting license hearing

MGM Springfield
Mass. Office of Travel and Tourism
The MGM Springfield casino.

MGM Springfield's struggles hiring women came up Wednesday as gambling regulators considered the casino's sports betting license. Allegations the casino provided false information to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) on vendor hiring was also briefly discussed.

Commissioners reviewed MGM Springfield's current operation in painstaking detail. The casino has a stated goal of having a workforce made up of half women. It has not been able to hit that mark since it opened in 2018.

During the meeting, two commissioners, chair Cathy Judd-Stein and Eileen O’Brien, called the struggles into question.

MGM Springfield's president Chris Kelley said hiring has been an issue statewide.

"We, as an industry, certainly within the state and certainly within the market in which we operate, have not seen a return of women to the workforce in the same degrees as we have seen men returning," he said.

He went on say the casino is also working with community groups including area colleges to bolster its number of female employees.

As of its latest report to the gaming commission in October, 40% of MGM Springfield's employees are female. It was meeting or exceeding its hiring goals for ethnic minorities, veterans and Springfield residents.

Lawsuit allegations also enter discussion of sports betting license

As the hours-long meeting continued, a related topic, whether MGM Springfield submitted false information to the gaming commission, came up. The allegations surfaced in a civil lawsuit filed by a former casino employee, Chelan Brown against Blue Tarp Redevelopment, LLC, which does business as MGM Springfield, and the facility’s former president, Michael Mathis. According to the complaint filed in Hampden Superior Court in November, Brown, who is Black, alleged she was discriminated against based on her race, was the victim of retaliation, and was mistreated in the workplace.

The center of the complaint stems from Brown’s time working in MGM Springfield’s procurement department. The suit alleges that “it became clear to Brown” in 2018 “that reports being provided to the MGC regarding diversity goals in certain vendor contracts, were not being reported accurately to the MGC....” The complained continues, “and that MGM was not reporting all contracts and dollars spent to the MGC, thereby circumventing diversity spend requirements.”

The court document goes on to says that Brown addressed the reporting issues with her superiors, including the former president, Mathis, who allegedly ordered the practice to continue. She eventually was moved to the conference services department and terminated in 2019. The lawsuit is pending, but a separate complaint filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination was dismissed, according to Mass Live.

During Wednesday’s meeting with the MGC, commissioner Eileen O’Brien brought up the allegations during a review of MGM Springfield’s sports betting license application. She said she understood it would be difficult for casino officials to comment on pending litigation, yet still broached the subject: “…But, representations or allegations that maybe some of the numbers early on were puffed up a little bit that were submitted to the MGC?"

Attorney Jed Nosal, representing MGM Springfield replied: "That's pretty difficult for us to talk about....”

O’Brien jumped in: “In this setting?” she asked, referring to the public hearing.

“Absolutely,” replied Nosal.

“Okay, that’s fair,” O’Brien responded.

As the meeting was wrapping up, O’Brien brought up the idea of discussing the matter in an executive session, but the MGC’s chair, Judd-Stein, and a commission attorney both said that wouldn’t be appropriate since it was MGM Springfield’s litigation it would be discussing and not the gaming commission’s.

A day later, a spokesperson for MGM Springfield declined comment citing company policy. And the MGC’s spokesperson said the commission is looking into the matter but declined further comment.

The gaming commission took no action on MGM Springfield’s retail sports betting license Wednesday. Some commissioners were frustrated some of the information in the application cited a separate application for Bet MGM, which is seeking a mobile betting license tethered to MGM Springfield. The plan also is for the digital operator to provide some services to the brick-and-mortar operation. The gaming commission is expected to take up Bet MGM’s license as soon as next week, and then could vote on both applications.

The gaming commission has said its goal is to have sports wagering available at the state's casinos in late January, with mobile betting slated to be launched in early March.

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.