MGM Resorts International appears to have cleared a key hurdle in the quest to build a resort casino in Springfield, Massachusetts. The results of a 10-month investigation by Massachusetts gaming industry regulators were released today.
The Investigation and Enforcement Bureau of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has recommended that MGM be found suitable to hold a casino license in Massachusetts. The finding could clear the Las Vegas-based company to file a final license application by the December 31st deadline to build an $800 million resort casino in downtown Springfield.
Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby cautioned on Monday that it is up to the full five-member commission to determine MGM’s suitability based on the staff’s report and the responses of MGM officials to issues raised in the background investigation.
" We respect the IAB, they do a phenomenal job. You've seen the stuff they've uncovered throughout these investigations. We have a lot of respect for them, but it is up to us. We will withhold our judgment until we finish this process."
Several top MGM officials testified at a hearing conducted by the commission in Boston Monday. The commission will deliberate privately and issue its decision in writing probably by the end of the week.
Although passing the strict background investigation that looked into the ethics of MGM executives and the company’s finances is a major step, there is more for the company to do to convince commissioners it should be awarded the lone casino license available in western Massachusetts, according to Crosby
MGM is the only competitor for the western Massachusetts casino license. Voters in West Springfield rejected a casino proposed by Hard Rock International, and Mohegan Sun’s plan for a casino in rural Palmer was rejected by a 94- vote margin on Election Day.
Springfield voters approved MGM’s project by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin.
One issue in the investigators report that MGM officials were questioned about Monday is the company’s dealings with Terry Christensen. The former member of MGM’s board of directors was convicted in federal court for illegal wiretapping and conspiracy in 2008. But even after his resignation from the board he still attended meetings and participated in certain company business.
Roland Hernandez, a current member of MGM’s board conceded there were errors in judgment. He said internal reviews led to changes and he insisted MGM operates at the highest ethical standards.
"With respect to public companies, generally I am engage with quite a few and I would tell you we are best in class on a U.S. basis."
Investigators also flagged for further review by the commissioners MGM’s casino operations in Macau and its controversial partnership there with Pansy Ho, whose father is reputedly a gangster.
Two partners in a real estate venture that will receive a share of the revenue from the Springfield casino submitted inaccurate information including a forged signature on a document to the commission’s investigators.