October 2, 2012

Update: Massachusetts Gaming Commission Holds Weekly Meeting

For its October 2, 2012, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission once again took the proceedings on the road to meet with community college officials from throughout the Commonwealth at Holyoke Community College. Only two of the commissioners – Commissioner McHugh and Commissioner Stebbins – attended the forum, with the rest of the Commission out in Las Vegas for the Global Gaming Expo.

Holyoke Community College President Bill Messner provided the commissioners with an update on the progress of the regional collaboratives that have been formed (comprising community colleges, regional employment boards, career centers, nonprofits and labor unions) throughout the state.  These collaboratives are working to create training opportunities for those interested in working in the Massachusetts gaming industry.  Mr. Messner presented the Commission with the newly created Massachusetts Community College System Casino Career Training Institute’s (“Institute”) draft “Statewide Initiatives Addressing the Workforce Needs of the Gaming Industry in Massachusetts,” available in the October 2 Commissioner Packet.

The Institute laid out five recommendations to meet the goal of creating an applicant pool of 30,000 Commonwealth casino workers to fill what are expected to total over 10,000 job openings once Massachusetts casinos open their doors.  Those recommendations are:

  1. That the Commission enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with the Institute to design and implement workforce programs;
  2. That the Institute and Commission work to enter into MOUs with potential casino developers/operators;
  3. That the Commission draft pre-employment screening requirements for potential casino workers;
  4. That the Commission create a certification process of casino workers and create levels of licensing for gaming jobs (dividing those occupations into “key,” “gaming” or “gaming service jobs”[i]); and
  5. That the Commission work with the Governor, Legislature and other key government departments to find funding for training of casino employees.

Bob LePage, director of the two collaboratives working with the Springfield Technical Community College, likened the MOU between the collaboratives and the Commission to those the Commonwealth enters into for certifying police officers and teachers to ensure a certain level of excellence in the operation of those positions.

Holyoke’s Vice President of Community and Business Services Jeff Hayden described the MOUs between the Commission and casino developers as a way to engage the industry in the casino training process.  The MOU would not be a binding contract between the Commission and the casinos, but would lay out a plan for working together on training issues.

The collaboratives are operating under the assumption that casinos will be up and running sometime in 2014.  The collaboratives plan to move forward developing casino-based curriculum based on the input of all potential developers, with further refinement envisioned once a single licensee is picked in each region.

Mr. LePage discussed growing the labor pool and the fact that, outside of Boston, the state already has problems filling skilled labor positions (including, for example, the hospitality industry).  Mr. LePage also noted that, due to the aging out of the workforce of Baby Boomers, eight years from now the Western part of the state will have a smaller labor pool than it does now if the state can’t increase the numbers of those entering job training programs in the short term.

Also presenting before the Commission were representatives from the construction industry, Frank Callahan, President of Massachusetts Building Trades Council, and Jason Durand the Business Manager of Carpenters’ Local 108, The New England Regional Council of Carpenters.  Mr. Durand emphasized that the building project in Western Mass. (using the MGM $800 million figure by way of example) would be by far the biggest construction project a non-Boston metropolitan area has ever seen.  Mr. Durand stressed that a balancing needs to happen between using local labor and finding those qualified to do the type of work required.  Both Mr. Durand and Mr. Callahan also focused on the need to get locals outside the Boston area into training programs in sooner rather than later so that local manpower will be ready to meet the demands of a large-scale casino construction project.

The full transcript of Tuesday’s meeting is available on the Commission’s website.  The next meeting will return to its usual location at 1000 Washington St., Meeting Room E at 1 p.m.

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Those interested in learning more about Goodwin Procter’s gaming and gambling expertise and practice, and/or the items outlined above, should contact David Apfel or Bob Crawford, co-chairs of Goodwin Procter’s Gaming, Gambling & Sweepstakes Practice

[i] Key Licensees are those employees supervising or making “discretionary decisions” as to gaming operations (this includes “Pit Managers, Cage Managers, floor supervisors, cage or cashier managers and officers/upper management of the Casino.”  Gaming Licensees are those “involved in security, maintenance, servicing, repair, or operations of [slots] and table games.”  Gaming Service Licensees are those with access to restricted gaming areas who do not work directly in gaming activities such as bartenders and cocktail servers.