Audit: state’s 1st casino not meeting hiring goals

BOSTON (AP) — The first and only casino in Massachusetts so far has been “falling far short” of its job creation promises, and the state agency charged with overseeing the casino industry hasn’t been holding it accountable, a state audit released Monday found.

Auditor Suzanne Bump said Plainridge Park Casino is required to hire 90 percent of its workforce from its host and surrounding communities as a condition for receiving one of the state’s few gambling licenses.

But her office found the slots parlor and harness racing track had only hired 36 percent of its staff from those cities and towns as of June 15, 2015 — days before its official opening that month.

Bump recommended the commission establish targets for meeting the hiring benchmarks and procedures to monitor its compliance.

The commission, in a response included in the auditor’s report, acknowledged the casino still has not met its “ambitious” 90 percent goal. But it said the hiring goal represented an “ongoing obligation” and not one “necessarily met at a specific time.”

The commission said it is “pleased” that 65 percent of Plainridge Park employees now live within a 20-mile radius of the casino and 77 percent are Massachusetts residents.

It also noted the casino is exceeding a requirement that at least 10 percent of the workforce be comprised of minorities.

The casino said that prior to its opening last year, 14 percent of its staff was from ethnic minority groups, though Bump’s office said in its report that the casino could not provide details in support of that assertion.

Bump also noted the workforce development plan Plainridge Park submitted to the state did not include specific timeframes to achieve its hiring goals.

Lance George, Plainridge Park’s general manager, said the casino is working “diligently and aggressively” toward meeting its hiring goals.

Bump’s performance audit focused on certain oversight functions of the gaming commission and covered the period from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2015.

Three other major resort casinos are also in development in Massachusetts by Wynn Resorts, MGM and the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.

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