The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) indicated they were behind in planning for the logistics of the big opening for Encore Boston Harbor – perhaps signaling that if things aren’t ironed out very soon, the big opening could be a difficult day for residents just trying to get around town.
MGC Commissioner Ed Bedrosian Jr. told the Commission on Thursday, Jan. 10, during a regular meeting that they were behind in planning for the Encore opening, that is as compared to their work on the opening of MGM Springfield last August.
The issue was brought to the table by Commissioner Enrique Zuniga, who noted that they had begun significant planning by January for MGM Springfield’s August opening.
“We did have a good discussion last meeting about MGM Springfield about how things had gone (with the opening), and the clear insight from that was that advanced planning and teamwork were critical to the smooth opening,” he said. “I think it’s very relevant that we do that. In fact, I went back and looked at some of the meetings we had a year ago. At that time, we were doing advanced planning for an opening in August.”
Bedrosian said they are behind, but he believes experience will help them work through issues faster.
“You are right,” he said. “At a senior staff level we are probably slightly behind where we were with MGM. We started things with them a little earlier. The offset to that is the context of MGM was we were opening our first Category 1 property and the learning curve was a lot higher. We’ve now smoothed off that learning curve so I am confident that if we do engage with our learned staff, we will be in good shape. But it is something that needs to happen quickly.”
Bedrosian said the MGC has been operating on parallel tracks with the investigation and the normal regulation – which includes the opening plans – and that the time has come for senior staff to get involved in the opening logistics.
“I hope you took from that presentation (last month) that the ability to have a smooth opening resulted from a lot of preparation and staff effort,” he said. “Earlier staff had been working with Encore on preparations, not dissimilar to what we did in Springfield. The time has come for issues that require both senior staff and Commission attention to be properly prepared for an anticipated opening.”
The opening day, and the days afterward, are expected to bring thousands and thousands of people to Everett and Lower Broadway. A failure by Encore and the MGC to be prepared for that opening could stifle and shut down the rest of the city for days.
MGC votes to approve less-rigorous vetting of employees not on gaming floor
The MGC voted unanimously at its monthly meeting on Jan. 10 to exempt employees from a larger background check if they are not going to be working on the gaming floor of the Encore Boston Harbor casino.
Since the state law on expanded gaming passed in 2011, the bar for being accepted as a new employee at one of the casinos has been pretty high. However, in the last year, the MGC has moved to relax some of those checks for workers that aren’t going to be directly involved with gaming. That would include food & beverage workers, valets and hotel staff. The rule of thumb is that if their job did not take them to the gaming floor, they would only have to submit to a regular corporate background check rather than the lengthy MGC background check process.
Commission staff suggested that also take place at Encore, with the exception of three positions in the Sound and Video Department. Those were held out from the vote for more investigation.
Meanwhile, three Public Area Porters (known as PAPs) were not exempted, as their jobs would take them to the floor regularly, said an Encore Attorney Abbie Horrigan.