By Seth Daniel
The State Legislature has approved a major change aimed at helping those with minor criminal records from the past not be barred from getting casino jobs statewide, and particularly at the Wynn Boston Harbor resort.
Earlier this year, it became apparent that the Expanding Gaming Law was very stringent, and was likely going to bar people with minor offenses from the past from getting jobs at the casino – including jobs in restaurants or housekeeping.
Many spoke out in an effort to reform the statute, and Speaker Bob DeLeo took up the cause – including it in the Supplemental Budget last week that passed both the House and Senate.
“At its heart, the gaming law is about providing jobs and improving the economy,” said DeLeo. “I wouldn’t want to see people – particularly those who are underemployed or unemployed – barred from working in a hotel or a restaurant, for example. I’m pleased that we made the change and look forward to seeing the Gaming Commission’s work on this time-sensitive matter.”
State Rep. Dan Ryan said he was glad to see the first step towards a change, and thanked DeLeo for shepherding through the change.
“The gaming bill was a thorough and comprehensive bill,” he said. “Like any legislation of that magnitude, varying interpretations and subsequent adjustments will have to be made. I do believe that some casino jobs have a higher security level than others. But, the casino has a variety of jobs that will require a variety of skill levels as well as security levels. We need to ensure that people who are willing and able to work can work. The legislature is taking the necessary steps to give the gaming commission the authority and flexibility to act in the best interest of our workforce and the surrounding communities. I thank Speaker DeLeo for his leadership on this issue.”
The Gaming Law currently has the “automatic disqualifier” provision that prevents a non-gaming employee from working in a casino – even in hotel work, restaurant work and physical plant work – if they have a felony conviction in the past 10 years. In Massachusetts now, it takes 10 years before a person can seal such a felony record and not have it count against them for things like employment in the casinos. Additionally, in Massachusetts, many felonies have a very low threshold – such as larceny over $250.
The changed language is not as specific and puts more power in the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s (MGC) hands to vet potential employees. The language puts it at the MGC’s “discretion.”
“The Massachusetts Gaming Commission established pursuant to Section 3 of said Chapter 23K, may exempt certain gaming service employees by job position from the registration requirement at its discretion,” read the new language.
The language will have to be vetted by several agencies and then will go to the MGC for potential implementation. The MGC has been in favor of such changes in letters sent to the Legislature this year, but chose not to comment.