Exemption sought for some with criminal records for casino employment

The provision adopted Wednesday by the House also must pass the Senate.

Photo Courtesy: MGNonline

BOSTON, (SHNS) – People with criminal records could find it easier to get a job at one of the casinos being built in Massachusetts if a provision adopted Wednesday by the House is also agreed to by the Senate.

At the request of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the House included in a $123 million spending bill that will close the books on fiscal year 2017 an outside section giving the commission the discretion to exempt certain gaming service employees by job position from the requirement that all workers register with the commission’s investigations and enforcement bureau.

“Currently all gaming service employees are automatically disqualified from service if they have a CORI,” House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez said, referring to criminal offender record information. “This change was necessary because both MGM Casino in Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor in Everett are currently beginning their hiring processes and current restrictions could impact their ability to be adequately staffed and to fulfill our statutory goal to encourage casino employment of the unemployed, under-employed and also the hard-to-employ.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the change is meant to remove a provision intended to apply to employees who work on casino gaming floors, but not block “blue collar” workers from taking advantage of the employment opportunities afforded by the expansion of casino gambling.

“What this has in mind is to make sure that those jobs that are not on the floor or involve any passing of money, that those folks would have that opportunity to get those jobs,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said before Wednesday’s session. “For instance, whether it be in a parking lot, whether it be in a kitchen, whether it may be in a hotel or whatever it may be.”

Last month, Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby wrote a letter to Senate President Stanley Rosenberg making the case for the change to be made as soon as possible, arguing that while hiring won’t begin for about six months the process of preparing applicants is already underway.“The bottom line is that the time to amend the statute — in order to attract the widest range of job applicants and to enable MGM to meet its local hiring requirements — is as soon as possible,” Crosby wrote.

Crosby referenced MGM directly because MGM Springfield is expected next year to be the first resort casino to open since Massachusetts passed an expanded gaming law in 2011. He said MGM runs a series of programs designed to recruit and train employees, but that the company currently has to explain to prospective employees that CORI records of most types are automatic disqualifiers.

DeLeo said he heard about the issue from the Gaming Commission and House members from the Springfield area.“I think they were hearing from their constituents who were applying for jobs and were told that because of this legislation they were being prevented from applying for the jobs,” the speaker said. “Again, it was never our intention of cutting off those folks from having the ability to obtain those jobs. So it was just something that we had to correct.”