MGM Springfield seeking later 'last call' on casino floor

Drinks could flow until 4 a.m. for gamblers at MGM Springfield, the Massachusetts casino opening this summer near Connecticut's northern border.

That's not likely to go down well with the southeastern Connecticut casinos.

Meeting Thursday in Boston, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided to seek public comment until June 4 on a draft of MGM Springfield's gaming liquor license application and, "specifically, its request for extended hours on the gaming floor." The commission is expected to act on the casino's liquor license in time to accommodate the casino's Aug. 24 opening.

MGM Springfield proposes to serve alcohol in 22 areas of the casino property between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. daily, and is requesting permission to also serve from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. on the casino floor "and only to patrons actively engaged in gambling."

MGM Springfield is the first Massachusetts gaming licensee to apply for the extended liquor-serving hours, which were made possible by a law Gov. Charlie Baker signed last year. Under the law, the extended hours are subject to the gaming commission's approval.

The extended hours could give MGM Springfield a competitive advantage in attracting gamblers.

Spokesmen for the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, did not respond Thursday to requests for comment. A year ago, both Connecticut casinos indicated they'd have to consider seeking the state's permission to follow suit if Massachusetts amended its liquor law to allow casinos to serve later than 2 a.m.

In Connecticut, last call at casinos and other liquor-serving establishments is 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Extending the hours would require a change in state law, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Consumer Protection, which includes the Liquor Control Division.

"We believe that extending liquor service hours ... particularly on casino floors, would translate to more revenue for Connecticut, especially considering that gaming competition continues to increase throughout New England," Lori Potter, the Mashantuckets' director of communications, wrote in a May 2017 email. "It would be wise for Connecticut to do whatever possible to remain competitive."

In anticipation of the extended hours, MGM Springfield is training its employees to monitor the areas where people are gambling as 2 a.m. nears, Saverio Mancini, the casino's director of communications, said Thursday.

"We want them to be able to tell who's actively gaming and who just sat down," he said.

At 1:30 a.m., the casino will give "last call," and, in gaming areas, begin serving drinks in plastic cups instead of glassware. Gamblers won't be able to leave the gaming floor with a plastic cup.

Mancini said MGM Springfield is incorporating "best practices" in place at MGM Grand Detroit, a sister casino where the bars and restaurants stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m. but alcohol continues to be served in gaming areas until 4 a.m.

"While Massachusetts law affords us the option to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., we plan to close bars in our resort at 2 a.m., the same time all other bars in Springfield are required to stop serving," he said. "... Extended service would be limited to the casino floor and available only through a cocktail server utilizing a single beverage station that will not be open to the public."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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