Massachusetts Senate President “Hates” Casino 4am Last Call

Massachusetts Casino Alcohol Law  - 4am Last Call

State Senator Stan Rosenberg said casinos might ask for 24-hour alcohol sales or an end to the smoking ban.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who was one of the chief architects of Massachusetts’ brick-and-mortar casino law, said he “hates” the current 4am alcohol policy for casinos. The alcohol law was a part of a recent $40 billion budget bill.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill into law this week. The original 2011 casino law championed by Sen. Rosenberg restricted alcohol sales at casinos between 2am and 8am.

Last Call at Casinos Move to 4am

The bill signed by Gov. Baker allows casinos to seek permission from the Massachusetts Gaming Commisison to extend casinos’ ‘last call’ to 4am. Since integrated casino-resorts like Wynn Boston Harbor and MGM Springfield are going to be 24-hour gaming facilities, they almost certainly will apply to have 4am last calls.

Sen. Rosenberg says the provision is irresponsible. In an interview on Boston Herald Radio, Rosenberg said of the last call provision, “I hate it.”

Rosenberg added, if casinos cannot go a few hours without serving drinks, “there is something wrong”.

Reasons Stan Rosenberg Hates 4am Last Calls

Opponents of the new law have a variety of complaints. Having last call at 4 in the morning means drinkers might be hitting the roads sometime after 4 o’clock in the morning. While Boston has a nice subway system, gamblers who drive their own car might be driving on the same roads with early commuters.

Late night gambling sessions are seen as irresponsible in other ways. For years, Las Vegas casinos served complimentary alcohol, because it was seen as an investment. If a gambler has fewer inhibitions, they are likely to gamble more and less responsibly. Vegas Strip casinos still offer free drinks to customers these days, though several have policies which do not offer alcohol to bystanders.

Beyond that, the concession gives casinos an advantage over local bars and restaurants. While Mom-and-Pop businesses are restricted from serving alcohol after 2am, Wynn Boston Harbor’s bars can serve until 4am. Naturally, the policy means those bars and restaurants will lose business.

Casinos Will Control State Regulations

Senate President Rosenberg said the precedent concerns him, because he believes it emboldens casino executives to ask for other concessions. He believes casinos might ask for 24-hour alcohol sales or the lifting of the smoking ban. Rosenberg said, “The industry will start driving the enterprise rather than the Commonwealth’s regulations.”

Steve Wynn Asked for 4am Last Call

Steve Wynn, the flamboyant CEO of Wynn Resorts, lobbied to have the last call policy changed for casinos. Wynn Resorts is building the $2 billion Wynn Boston Harbor, which is going to be the most expensive building ever built in Massachusetts history.

When the Wynn Boston Harbor opens in 2019, it is going to be the first-ever legal casino operation in the Boston metropolitan area. Steve Wynn has fought Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone over compensation for the traffic congestion and infrastructure costs to roads and bridges the additional 20,000 cars-a-day the casino is expected to draw.

MGM Springfield

In Western Massachusetts, MGM Resorts is building the $900 million MGM Springfield. Located in the heart of Springfield, MGM’s integrated casino-resort is expected to be a centerpiece of the city’s urban renewal. “Integrated” resorts are different than standard casino resorts, because they act as the centerpiece of a shopping and entertainment district.

The idea is to make the casino a hub of commercial and leisure activity in the city, and also a lure to gaming and non-gaming members of a family unit. While a gambler spends time playing cards or shooting dice in the casino, their family can enjoy shopping or other entertainment elsewhere in the complex.

4am Last Call and the Morning Rush Hour Traffic

That works well for the economic lifeblood of a city, but it might be dangerous if the drive times to-and-from a casino coincide with workday commutes. Wynn Boston Harbor is located in a major traffic zone. If the casino is serving alcohol until 4am and a gambler decides to wait until shortly after last call to leave the casino, then he or she might be driving into morning rush hour traffic.

All in all, the decision to extend the last call seems to have gotten very little consideration, given the urgency to pass a $40 billion omnibus spending bill. Now that the legislation is passed, Senate President Stan Rosenberg and others are questioning its wisdom. Such concerns probably should have been voiced before the vote.