The first resort casino in Massachusetts, MGM Springfield, continues to struggle with keeping minors away from the gaming floor.
From the day it opened last August, MGM executives have had to address the problem of people under the legal gambling age of 21 getting onto the casino floor and in some instances betting.
In the most recent quarterly report to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, MGM reported a spike in people underage found on the gaming floor in the month of December. There were 64 minors discovered in the gaming area and 15 more who were found to be actually gambling.
"To be clear our goal is zero," said MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis. " It is something we work on very hard."
He attributed the December numbers, which were considerably higher than in both October and November, to stepped-up surveillance and enforcement.
" Also, family programing," added Mathis. He said in December the casino opened an ice skating rink and had a tree lighting event.
" We had more famlies going through and if they stepped on the gaming floor that constituted a violation, even if they did not intend to game," said Mathis.
He said most of the minors who were found to be gambling in December were at slot machines.
Mathis said the “porous” design of the casino makes it easier for minors to sneak on to the gambling floor. The resort casino has 15 separate entrances and exits intended to promote pedestrian flow into downtown Springfield. The complex includes amenities promoted as “family-friendly” including a multi-screen movie theater, ice skating rink, and a food market.
Shortly after the problem with minors was noticed, MGM in September announced new policies. No unattended minors are allowed in the complex at any time and after midnight only people 21 and older, or hotel guests, are allowed anywhere on the premises.
Security officers are now instructed to check the IDs of anyone who looks younger than 30. To avoid repeatedly being asked to produce an ID as they move around the gaming floor, patrons can request to have their hand stamped, according to Seth Stratton, MGM Springfield’s general counsel.
"We have a number of them so you can't figure out what the stamp is and replicate it so everyday we have a different stamp," explained Stratton.
Gaming commission executive director Edward Bedrosian said each instance of a minor being discovered in the gaming area or gambling at the MGM casino is investigated by the commission’s enforcement division.
"We do recognize the porous nature of the property, but we want to make sure our licensee does everything they literally can do to prevent this because it is a serious issue for a lot of folks including the commission and other stakeholders," said Bedrosian.
To clear up any confusion about the legal gambling age in Massachusetts casinos, a large sign reading “Casino 21+” has been installed at the entrance from the self-parking garage.