The MGC’s Month in Review: October 2023

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission met this month on a variety of topics related to the oversight and regulation of casino gaming, sports wagering, horse racing and other responsibilities under MGC supervision. These activities included virtual public meetings and hearings, in-person meetings and hearings, advisory committee meetings, and special screening committee meetings for the hiring of essential MGC staff.

As always, MGC staff, licensees and stakeholders joined commissioners at these events to discuss licensee operations, proposed modifications to programs, licensee requests and reports on ongoing programs at the MGC.

Commissioners heard from the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) regarding the sportsbook branding transition of sports wagering licensee Penn Sports Interactive (PSI) to ESPN Bet. This topic has been of great interest since PSI announced the proposed change and remains the subject of commission review. PSI came before the MGC in early November and will continue to meet publicly with the Commission to discuss this issue in greater detail ahead of any branding changes in the Commonwealth.

October was filled with activity from the Community Affairs Division focused on the Community Mitigation Fund (CMF). Formula changes have been proposed to the way the MGC awards CMF grants, and significant time was spent by Community Affairs Division Chief Joe Delany and team explaining these changes to commissioners and the public and hosting a virtual public hearing to accept comments on the proposed changes. Ultimately, commissioners approved the proposed changes to the CMF formula for FY25 subject to further review once that grant cycle concludes. Additionally, several Community Mitigation Fund subcommittee meetings were held during October.

The MGC was also on the road this month, holding two public events in the Town of Plainville. First, commissioners invited the public to Plainville Town Hall for a public hearing on Plainville Gaming and Redevelopment’s application to conduct a racing meeting in the town. Written comments were also accepted from those who may not have been able to attend the in-person hearing. Next, commissioners joined MGC staff and the team at Plainridge Park Casino, along with the properties’ parent company, for a live demonstration of proposed “cashless, contactless, cardless” wagering currently in use at Penn Entertainment properties in other states. The public was invited to this live demonstration at the property. Commissioners and members of the MGC Executive Staff remained on-site at Plainridge Park Casino to catch the final races of the Massachusetts Sire Stakes, which concluded with the 2- and 3-year-old finals on October 24.

The Research and Responsible Gaming Division, along with the team at GameSense, presented the GameSense Quarterly report. The report highlighted the GameSense program, which the MGC has adopted as a responsible gaming program in the Commonwealth. GameSense advisors are located at each casino property in Massachusetts and are available online and over the phone for anyone seeking advice on responsible gaming. This report highlighted quarterly interaction, showing an increase in tracked metrics such as substantial interactions, Voluntary Self-Exclusion program sign ups, and PlayMyWay enrollees. The report also reviewed initiatives such as Responsible Gaming Education Month (RGEM) and how GameSense played a role. The full report can be viewed on the MGC website.

As always, on the 15th of each month (or the first business day following), the MGC releases revenue figures for the previous month. In September 2023, casino gaming at Plainridge Park Casino, MGM Springfield, and Encore Boston Harbor generated approximately $90.39 million in gross gaming revenue, generating nearly $25.75 million in taxes for the Commonwealth. Sports wagering generated approximately $49.81 million in taxable sports wagering revenue and approximately $9.91 million in taxes for the Commonwealth.

Inside the MGC, gaming agents and staff were invited to a two-day training from game protection expert Sal Piacente. Piacente has decades of experience working in and with casinos, regulators and others in the gaming industry to identify vulnerabilities in casino game offerings. If it has been seen in a movie, Sal has seen it in real life. He takes these experiences and shows examples of areas where regulators, surveillance personnel, dealers and other casino employees should be aware of potential risks to the integrity of the games offered at a casino. His firsthand knowledge of the ways games may be exploited is almost unbelievable, sometimes humorous, but all too real. Piacente takes this knowledge and details strategies, best practice and presents hands-on demonstrations for how to limit these instances.

Commissioners and the team at the MGC appreciate the interest and engagement members of the public and stakeholders have shown and look forward to continuing to work for the benefit of the Commonwealth in the months ahead.

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