Gaming Lab Opens in Massachusetts
A new “gaming lab” for Massachusetts called the Catch Institute is making its home with the Fall River-based Bristol Community College. Its job is to prepare students to become casino managers, and hopefully be hired by the casinos that are coming on line in the Bay State.
A ribbon-cutting for the lab was held last week. The director of the Catch Institute, John Caressimo, commented, “It’s a great opportunity for young people today who are looking for a good-paying job and for a job that there’s going to be tons of openings for.”
The first of its kind “gaming lab,” which is located in satellite campus in a two-level enclosed mall near Taunton, has the imprimatur of the Massachusetts Gaming Institute to funnel students into the new industry. It will train dealers for blackjack and poker and will offer an associate degree in gaming. To get the degree students will also have to complete typical AA degree class requirements, such as history and math.
The state has one operating slots parlor, with two major casino resorts that will open soon, one in Springfield in 2018 and one near Boston, the following year.
Another casino, Project First Light Resort & Casino, in Taunton, was begun by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe as an Indian casino, but has been halted by court rulings that question the action by the federal government that put the land there into trust for the tribe.
Caressimo alluded to the possibility of that casino opening someday when he said, “What it means for the community is that the community has a facility right in its own backyard where they’ll be able to get that particular training that they need for jobs.” He predicted that as many as 11,000 casino jobs will be available when all four casinos are in operation.
Meanwhile a federal court has agreed to delay proceeding in a lawsuit pursued by East Taunton residents against the tribe that challenges the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ authority to put the 151 acres of Taunton land into trust.
The delay will allow the Bureau, which is part of the Department of the Interior, to pursue a different category for putting the land into trust than the one that was rejected by the lower court.
In 2016 the U.S. District Court ruled for the neighbors. The Mashpees appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In June, the bureau itself found that the tribe did not qualify to put land into trust under an alternate definition, but left the door open to yet another possibility, that the state of Massachusetts could stand in for the federal government when talking about the legal definition of whether the tribe had been “under federal jurisdiction” before 1934, the cut-off year that the landmark 2009 Supreme Court decision of Carcieri v. Salazar established as the criterion for putting land into trust.
A federal circuit judge agreed to delay the appeal under at least October 30. That’s the deadline the Interior Department has set for the tribe and opponents to submit evidence on the question of whether state authority can stand in for the federal government.
At its update last week to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in Boston, the MGM Springfield reported that it once again is exceeding its goals for diversity hiring and contracting. The report was for the period ending March 30.
Brian Packer, the casino’s vice president of construction and development, reported on the $950 million casino, which will open in about a year. He reported that the hiring of minorities was 24.07 percent, beating the goal of 15.3 percent. The hiring of women was 10.27 percent, compared to the goal of 6.9 percent. The hiring of veterans was 10.37 percent, compared to the goal of 8 percent.
In the area of contracting for construction and design, 15.3 percent went to businesses owned by women, beating the 10 percent goal. For minority-owned businesses, the reality was 12.7 percent compared to the goal of 5 percent. Finally, MGM’s goal to do business with veteran-owned companies was 2 percent, but it actually achieved 7.1 percent.
As of March 30, MGM Springfield spent $183.6 million on construction and design costs. A balance of $313.2 million is left for those two categories.
In addition, the company has already spent $49.5 million on land, $85 million on license and application fees, $47.7 million on pre-opening expense and $11.3 million on off-site parcel improvements.
Packer also reported that the casino is on scheduled to open in September 2018. He said workers are preparing for winter, “to make sure the building is generally watertight” now that most exterior work is done. It is now framing interior walls.
MGM is also moving forward on its commitment to the city to provide 54 units of market-rate housing in the downtown. The city of Springfield recently gave it an extension to build the houses. The company has up to 18 months after the casino opens to meet its commitment.
So far, MGM has spent $5.5 million on improvements to roads, sidewalks and traffic signals in the downtown.
MGM is also looking for a vendor to operate the cinema that will be included in the casino complex.
Seth Stratton, vice president and legal counsel for MGM Springfield, told commissioners that the city and company are “on the same page on virtually every issue coming up.”