Judd-Stein: Casinos haven’t asked for COVID relief

The chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission says the state’s three casinos have not asked for any financial breaks during the pandemic despite shutdowns, capacity restrictions, and curfews that have cut into their revenues.

The two casinos in Everett and Springfield and the slots parlor in Plainville were shut down March 14, reopened in early July, and have been facing limited hours and operating restrictions ever since. A 9:30 p.m. curfew is being lifted on Monday.

Cathy Judd-Stein, the chair of the commission, said on The Codcast that all three facilities during the pandemic cooperated fully with the agency and met all financial obligations to their host communities, their surrounding communities, and the state.

“When our three world-class licensees were selected, the commission kept in mind would these organizations have the bandwidth, the resources, the business strategies, the know-how to be able to weather an economic or industry crisis,” Judd-Stein said. “What we’re seeing is these three licensees have the resilience given how they have done during this period. They have made no requests that I know of of the state.”

In December, the latest month for which revenue numbers are available, the three casinos generated a total of $50 million in revenue, 60 percent of the amount they generated in December 2019. The three facilities have generated a total of $683 million in tax revenue since opening, with $158 million coming in the last year. 

Wynn Resorts, which operates the Encore casino in Everett, reported revenues at the facility were down 33 percent in the quarter ending September 30, and the company as a whole incurred a $758 million net loss. But the Everett facility fared reasonably well, reporting a record level of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

Judd-Stein previously worked as a legal counsel to Gov. Charlie Baker and other governors going back to Paul Cellucci. She also worked at the state Lottery and the treasurer’s office. She is not a gambling enthusiast (“I’m a little bit mystified by all of it,” she said) but sees herself filling two roles – regulator first and then partner to some degree.

“Our job is to provide regulatory oversight and to assure the public’s confidence in the integrity of the gaming industry. But we are also partners with our licensees in a way when they come to us for opportunities to ensure that they are positioning for success in Massachusetts,” she said. “We do want them to succeed. We do want the economic benefits maximized.”

One of Judd-Stein’s first challenges when she took over as chair of the agency in 2019 was deciding, with her fellow commissioners, whether Wynn Resorts deserved to hold on to its license after company founder Steve Wynn was accused of sexual misconduct involving two dozen women. The agency ultimately allowed Wynn to hang on to the license, but imposed a $35 million fine on the company, a $500,000 fine on CEO Matt Maddox, and also required Maddox to get management training.

The company and Maddox paid their fines and Judd-Stein confirmed the CEO did work with an executive coach. “In many ways I didn’t see that as punitive but actually something that should have occurred for a CEO of such a multi-faceted business at a time of crisis. We thought it was important for the board of directors to provide that for Mr. Maddox,” Judd-Stein said.




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