The first resort casino in Massachusetts, scheduled to open later this summer in Springfield, will be able to serve alcohol into the wee hours of the morning.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to approve, with some conditions attached, an alcoholic beverage license for MGM Springfield that will allow drinks to be served on the casino floor until 4 a.m. – two hours later than the time all other bars in the state are required to close.
The conditions attached to the license, as introduced by Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, will require the commission to undertake a review of the alcohol service 90 days after the casino opens and grants the commission’s executive director authority to suspend any portion of the license or order changes in procedures.
"This is still something new and we want to be cautious and thoughtful about how we enact it," said Stebbins.
Last year, the Massachusetts legislature approved a change in state law to allow casinos to serve alcohol to active gamblers past the state’s 2 a.m. closing time with approval from the state’s casino regulators.
MGM Springfield Vice President & General Counsel Seth Stratton said most casinos throughout the country do not have a cutoff time for alcohol service.
"It is industry competition and ensuring a consistant experience as much as we can throughout industry properties," said Stratton when asked by the commissioners to explain why MGM wanted to extend drink service for two hours at the Springfield casino.
The Massachusetts Restaurant Association opposed MGM’s request for extended alcohol hours. The Springfield City Council’s Casino Oversight Committee endorsed it.
MGM said the alcohol service until 4 a.m. will be closely monitored and tightly controlled with drinks available only to people who are actively gambling. All other bars in the downtown casino complex will shut down at 2 a.m.
Commissioner Gale Cameron said she is satisfied MGM has developed adequate safeguards to discourage people from flocking to the casino after other bars close, and to prevent people who are drunk from driving off into early morning workday traffic.
"I think your plan is solid, but like any plan it is the implamentation that is really important," Cameron told MGM officials.
Eileen O’Brien, the newest of the five gaming commissioners, was the only one to vote no.
"The public safety concerns with people gaming into the night with continued alcohol access, on balance, I am just not convinced that it is in the best interest of the Commonwealth to extend from 2 -4 (a.m.)," said O'Brien.
The beverage license for the casino covers 21 separate locations in the complex where drinks will be available including the hotel, several restaurants, a bowling alley, and a movie theater.
MGM will also be permitted to serve drinks on an outdoor plaza.
The $960 million casino is scheduled to open to the public on August 24th.