An illegal sports betting ring in Las Vegas could cost First Light Casino a Massachusetts casino license.
Nothing is certain, but the situation is worth monitoring, given how strict the Massachusetts Gaming Commission tends to be.
Encore Boston Harbor, MGM Springfield and Painridge Park comprise the market of Massachusetts casinos. But there have been attempts by a tribal entity to create a fourth.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe hopes to build First Light Casino, a $1 billion property in Taunton. The tribe partnered with the Malaysian-based Genting Group for the project.
However, the property has been embroiled in a legal battle with the state and it’s still unclear when or if they can start building in Taunton.
Genting owns dozens of casinos worldwide but just a handful of Resorts World-branded casinos in the US. To make matters worse, the company could end up under the scrutiny of Massachusetts regulators thanks to its ties with Resorts World Las Vegas COO and President Scott Sibella.
What happened with Resorts World’s COO Scott Sibella?
Sibella is no longer with the company after his name came up in an investigation.
Law enforcement looked into an illegal sports betting operation in Las Vegas. According to a statement from Resorts World, Sibella “failed to disclose certain information required under company policies” stemming from his work as one of the MGM Resorts executives.
Sibella was a longtime executive with MGM Resorts International prior to starting Resorts World just two years ago.
According to the Nevada Current, IRS and Homeland Security agents are attempting to see if MGM Grand employees used company assets to pay off debts from an illegal sports betting operation. Wayne Nix, who pled guilty in 2022, led the underground ring.
It’s worth noting that the investigation is ongoing. Officials are still attempting to find links with other top names.
One thing is for certain, though: Sibella is no longer with Resorts World. CFO Peter LaVoie took over Sibella’s departure.
How does this tie into the potential First Light Casino in Massachusetts?
Yes, there is a Massachusetts tie here. And one that already came with plenty of legal battles.
In other words, the potential casino’s partner had a business where a top official was allegedly connected to an illegal gambling ring.
The First Light Casino would be the state’s fourth casino, and it’s been in the works for quite some time. Nearly eight years, to be specific.
It’s been a constant legal battle since breaking ground in April 2016.
In July 2016, the US District Court said that the DOI didn’t have the authority to bring the Mashpee Wampanoag land into federal trust. The tribe would appeal the decision, focusing more on making sure it would not lose the land rather than thinking about casino plans.
But in February 2020, a judge ruled against the tribe’s appeal.
Fast forward to 2021, and the DOI officially recognized the tribe’s right to the land. In February 2023, a US District Court judge agreed, saying the DOI was correct in moving the land for the casino into the tribe’s reservation trust.
However, there has been no real movement since then. If anything, there’s been objection.
LEARN ABOUT THE 3 MA CASINOS:
Massachusetts regulators take allegations seriously
In 2019, Massachusetts regulators nearly pulled the casino license of one of the state’s popular operations.
Wynn Resorts founder and CEO Steve Wynn resigned in 2018 following employee allegations of sexual misconduct.
A report from the commission that same year found that past executives of Wynn Resorts concealed sexual misconduct allegations. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission was “profoundly disturbed” by the “repeated systematic failures and pervasive culture of non-disclosure.” Its report stated that the CEO’s culture left “the most vulnerable at great risk.”
Many wondered if Encore Boston Harbor, Massachusetts’ casino built by Wynn Resorts, would still hold a license.
After discussion, the MGC fined Wynn Resorts $35 million for not disclosing any of these accusations against Wynn at the time.
The Massachusetts investigation came shortly after Nevada casino regulators fined the company $20 million.
Could Sibella’s actions impact whether or not MA approves the First Light Casino?
Let’s be clear: sexual assault and an underground sports betting ring are two very different things.
But on the surface, its two parent companies tied to crimes within their different ventures.
And if Massachusetts regulators took a hard look at Encore Boston Harbor for Wynn’s actions, it’s safe to assume they’ll be just as focused on Sibella’s actions and the Genting’s connection to the First Light Casino.
And truly, it should be.
Massachusetts is an industry leader when it comes to responsible gambling. Regulators cracked down on misleading advertising, for example. The state is considered by many an example when it comes to commanding a tight ship.
This should be no different.
Will the First Light Casino’s partner’s tie to illegal sports betting cost it a chance at officially coming to fruition? Maybe, but maybe not. If it was an isolated incident (it very well could be) and didn’t trickle elsewhere, the Massachusetts casino plans could still be intact.
But given Massachusetts’ stance on responsible gambling, Genting and its partnerships might not be completely off the hook. This certainly won’t expedite any sort of casino plans. It’s yet another hurdle in a seemingly never-ending quest.