MGM’s Online Gaming Site Coming To PA Soon, But It First Owes A Fine

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MGM Resorts International is hoping to start its online gaming site soon in Pennsylvania, but before it can collect its first dime, it must pay an $85,000 fine to the state Gaming Control Board.

The gaming board, during its monthly meeting Wednesday, announced a consent agreement under which MGM Resorts will pay the penalty for hiring a former board employee just six months after he left his government position.

It’s possible that MGM Resorts will obtain approval at the board’s August meeting of the license enabling its BetMGM site to begin offering online slots, table games, and poker, but it will have to pay the fine first.

Company must wait two years for such hires

A provision of Pennsylvania’s casino law requires gaming board personnel in a number of influential categories to wait two years — if they leave their position — before taking a job with a gaming entity doing business in the state.

The consent agreement stated that a former senior counsel for the board, who was not identified, left that post in January 2019 and began work in July 2019 for Empire City Casino in Yonkers, N.Y.

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Empire City Casino is owned by MGM Resorts, whose iGaming subsidiary is in the process of obtaining licensing approval from the gaming board to begin online/mobile operations in Pennsylvania.

The consent agreement said there was no indication that the lawyer shared any inside knowledge from his work for the gaming board with anyone else connected to MGM. It also stated the individual left his position with MGM and Empire City this past January.

Those facts did not negate the violation of the two-year employment moratorium designed to discourage rampant movement of regulatory officials into the private sector they once oversaw.

Representatives of MGM Resorts offered no explanation of the violation or objection to the $85,000 penalty when taking part in the gaming board’s meeting held by telephone conference call Wednesday.

The consent agreement stated the company has instituted new policies to prevent future hiring that violates government-imposed time restrictions.

In addition to the fine, MGM is required to pay a $2,500 administrative fee covering the board’s investigation.

MGM ahead of Golden Nugget getting to PA

MGM, one of the nation’s largest gaming operators, has no casinos in Pennsylvania, but it is paying a $10 million fee to become one of two “qualified gaming entities” that can offer iGaming.

It and Golden Nugget were the only two out-of-state operators to seek iGaming licenses that became available because Pennsylvania casinos did not themselves claim all of the licenses that were open to them under a 2017 gaming expansion.

The 10 iGaming sites already operating in the state are attached to the state’s casinos, and state regulators have said the process to review and approve applications from MGM and Golden Nugget has taken longer because they are new to the state.

A gaming board spokesman said that while MGM’s license may receive consideration in August, which would enable it to launch quickly thereafter with a state-supervised test period, there is no indication that Golden Nugget’s application will be up for approval as soon.

Both companies operate successful iGaming sites in New Jersey.

Photo provided by Shutterstock

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at [email protected].

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