Gaming US investigators call MGM fit to operate Springfield casino
Massachusetts investigators recommended that MGM Resorts be declared fit to operate a casino, capping a 10-month investigation into the background of the only remaining contender for the sole Western Massachusetts license, the Boston Globe reported yesterday.
The recommendation came with several conditions, including that MGM explain its business practices in Macau, China, and its association with a former board member convicted of illegal wiretapping and conspiracy. MGM executives answered the investigators’ questions at an all-day hearing Monday before the state gambling commission, the paper said.
According to the Globe, the investigators’ recommendation, however, is not binding on the commissioners, who are expected to issue a final decision on whether the company is suitable to hold a license in coming days. The commissioners did not convey which way they were leaning during the hearing, “although their questioning was not overly aggressive.”
The commission has said it intends to complete its approval process by awarding the resort licenses in the spring.
MGM owns 99 percent of the Springfield casino venture, and Springfield businessman Paul Picknelly owns 1 percent.
Last week, MGM chief executive Jim Murren told the Boston College Chief Executive’s Club that the company plans to hire 3,000 permanent workers and another 2,000 to build the USD800 million gambling and entertainment resort in downtown Springfield.
Where is that phony guarantee in writing????
On Monday, the commission released the findings of its Investigations and Enforcement Bureau background check, in a 500-page report. MGM executives spent most of Monday in a public hearing responding to the findings.
Commission investigators raised questions about the company’s interaction with Terry Christensen, who spent 18 years on the MGM board until he was indicted in 2006. He was later convicted of illegal wiretapping and conspiracy charges.
MGM has since changed its internal procedures to address concerns from regulators over the company’s involvement with Christensen.
The commission also pressed MGM on its operation in Macau, due to a state law that requires all applicants to maintain “responsible business practices” in any place they run a casino.
According to the Boston Globe, much of the testimony focused on the widespread practice in Macau of using “gaming promoters” to recruit patrons to play at the casinos.
“A paramount benefit offered by gaming promoters is the ability to extend credit to mainland Chinese players, which the casino will not do because gambling debts are not legally enforceable in China,” the report states.
“Under this system, MGM Macau has no corporate knowledge of what interest rate, if any, is charged or the manner in which debt collection is undertaken,’’ the report states.
Investigators also focused on the company’s relationship in Macau with businesswoman Pansy Ho, daughter of a Macau gambling mogul linked to organized crime, Stanley Ho. MGM’s relationship raised red flags with New Jersey regulators, who in 2009 issued a report recommending that Pansy Ho be found unsuitable, “mainly out of concerns that she was acting as a front for her father,” the report states.
Massachusetts investigators concluded: “There is no dispute about the fact that when MGM was negotiating the 2004 partnership deal with Pansy Ho, MGM did not conduct any investigation into her source of funds for the project; nor did MGM conduct any investigation into whether she was acting independently from her father.”