Massachusetts Gaming Commission wants more gambling tables running, more dealers hired, at MGM, Encore

MGM Springfield has just 269 card dealers, table games and poker supervisors and managers working as of last month, a headcount that still trails the 444 table games and poker employees it had in March 2020.

That March was just before COVID restrictions shut down the casino and forced deep layoffs.

Those 269 employees are not enough, said Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners Thursday, comparing casino floor operations at the state’s three casinos to both the number of games and workers they promised the state to create and to where they were before COVID hit.

They reviewed a Commission-generated report on how MGM Springfield and the state’s two other casinos — Plainridge Park and Encore Boston Harbor — have recovered from COVID shutdowns that kept casino floors closed from March through July 2020.

Gaming Commission Chair Cathy Judd-Stein the lack of re-opened tables, and of dealer hiring, means the casinos are not living up to promises and to potential economic impacts. Job creation was a major reason why the state finally licensed casinos and still a part of the Gaming Commission’s mission.

“Of course, the reason why this is important is the less table games they have, the more they look like a slots parlor. And that’s not, Commissioner [Brad] Hill, what you and your legislative colleagues envisioned back when gaming was expanded,” Judd-Stein said Thursday about the state’s two resort casinos. “We want the full complement of games, not only because that’s what our patrons want, but also the jobs that are attached.”

MGM Springfield is licensed for 100 table games like blackjack or roulette, but had just 79 of them operating in March 2020. It had 43 tables when it reopened in July 2020 and 48 as of last month

It was licensed with 25 poker tables, had 22 running in March 2020 and just 14 now. Poker was not allowed in Massachusetts immediately on reopening in July 2020.

MGM had 1,844 slot machines in March 2020 before the shutdown, 869 slots in July 2020 and 1,525 as of July 2022.

Stadium games, a hybrid between video gaming and table games, numbered 24 tables in March 2020 and 15 in July 2020. That number was unchanged in July 2022.

At Encore, it was originally licensed for 150 table games, but had expanded to 167 by March 2020, reopened in March 2020, reopened with 186 in July 2020 and had 184 as of July 2022.

.Encore had 74 poker tables pre-closure in March 2022 and now has just 15.

Encore had 1,064 people working in table games in March 2020, reopened that July with 883 and now has 1,001.

Poker and its availability has been an issue for the commission. The report presented Thursday said some MGM Springfield customers waited as long as an hour for a seat at about 6 p.m. on a few days sampled in July.

Similar wait times were observed at Encore.

At Plainridge Park, a slots-only parlor, the facility is licensed for 1,500 machines then had 1,320 at the March 2020 shutdown. It reopened with 789 and now has 946.

MGM Springfield spokesperson Beth Ward declined to answer specific questions related to plans on reopening poker tables, adding gaming tables and difficulties in hiring dealers. “Our quarterly report with the (Gaming Commission) is coming up in early September which might help answer some of (these) questions,” she said.

But Bruce Band, deputy director investigations and Enforcement Bureau at Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said MGM is trying to hire more dealers.

“I know they have had trouble re-hiring dealers there, from what we’ve been told,” he said. “They will get some people and they will leave for some other position.”

Overall, the national economy has regained the jobs lost due to COVID, the federal government said last week.

MGM Springfield ended March 2022 with a total of 1,203 employees. That lagged the 2,500 employees MGM had in March 2020.

MGM promised to create 3,000 jobs here before its 2018 opening.

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