Audit: Plainridge Casino falls short in hiring goals
Report says gaming commission at fault for not monitoring agreement
A NEW AUDIT says the Massachusetts Gaming Commission dropped the ball in its mandate to ensure that Plainridge Park Casino met its agreed-upon local hiring goals and that the state’s only slots parlor failed to garnish winnings of patrons to pay back delinquent child support.
“Allowing Plainridge to not accomplish its plan goals could result in less economic benefit to the community than was intended by the law that created” the gaming commission, says the report from State Auditor Suzanne Bump. “In addition, Plainridge’s noncompliance with its plan could expose it to revocation or nonrenewal of its license.”
But the gaming commission, which was also taken to task for misallocating revenue in the state’s racing trust fund, said Plainridge was making its “best faith” efforts in meeting the hiring targets and the numbers in the report don’t reflect the improved performance of the casino’s human resources department.
“While Plainridge Park Casino (PPC) has not achieved its ambitious 90 percent goal of local workforce hiring, we are pleased that 65 percent of current employees comes from a 20 mile radius to the property,” the commission said in a statement in response to the audit.
According to Bump’s report, Penn National Gaming, the owners of Plainridge Park, signed a host contract with Plainville in 2014 that included a binding agreement to hire 90 percent of the workforce from Plainville and the communities within a 20 miles radius. In addition, the casino agreed to hire at least 10 percent of minorities in its workforce, a goal that was actually exceeded.
The audit said a review of the employee data found that when it opened in June, 2015, Plainridge had hired only 36 percent of its employees from the affected communities and while the casino said it hired 14 percent minorities, Bump’s report said the company offered no proof. Bump also said the gaming commission failed to monitor the hiring goals, allowing the targets to go unmet.
“MGC did not give the Office of the State Auditor any documentation, either during or after our audit, to substantiate that it had developed any formal written policies or procedures for meeting these requirements,” the audit said. “Moreover, as stated in our report, MGC officials told us that although the commission had the authority to audit Plainridge’s hiring records to determine whether it had met its workforce development and diversity goals, MGC had chosen not to do so to date.”
Officials from Plainridge and Penn National did not return calls for comment.
The Gaming Commission, in its response, said the slots parlor had hired 65 percent of its employees from Plainville and surrounding towns, and 77 percent of the hires are Massachusetts residents, a key point in meeting the goal when enough qualified applicants could not be found in the immediate area. The commission also noted the diversity goals had been met in the construction phase, with the exception of women which it said was “a challenging area.”
“While Plainridge Park Casino has not achieved its ambitious 90 percent goal of local workforce hiring, we are pleased that 65 percent of current employees comes from a 20 mile radius to the property,” the commission said in its response. “Both the licensee and the MGC regard the goals for the operations phase as an on-going obligation, and one that is not necessarily met at a specific time without potentially having an impact on other competing priorities.”The commission also admitted that faulty software was the cause of the casino failing to identify winners with unpaid child support but said that was not an area of responsibility for the agency, though they worked with officials from Plainville and the Department of Revenue to fix the problem. The audit said the amount totaled $65,000 but the gaming commission said once the problem was fixed, everyone was made whole.
The issue with the racing trust fund appeared to be a misallocation of money among different accounts, which the commission said was an oversight and the monies were redistributed.