Crosby says he’s staying atop gaming commission

BOSTON, NOV. 6, 2014…..With a switch in governors occurring in January, the head of the state gaming commission plans to stay where he is.

Stephen Crosby, who heads up the five-member commission overseeing the state’s gambling industry, said he wants to see the casinos authorized by the 2011 state law built.

“My term is a seven-year term, if I chose to stay for seven years, and I’ve been in for two and a half or three,” Crosby said Thursday. “And my expectation is to stay on and probably try to bring these casinos to fruition.”

Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Crosby, who had previously served as founding dean of UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, as chair in December 2011.

Crosby was secretary of administration and finance under Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci and Acting Gov. Jane Swift, as well as Swift’s chief of staff. Governor-elect Charlie Baker, who worked in the Cellucci administration, is in the process of hiring staff to stock up his administration in January.

Asked for his analysis of voters on Tuesday rejecting an effort to repeal the casino law, Crosby said, “Believe it or not, we were not invested in the outcome. Obviously some of our employees were a little bit anxious.”

Crosby said the commission will be “attentive” to the 40 percent who voted for repealing the law.

“Sixty percent is a landslide in most elections,” he said. “But 40 percent of the people voted against it. And that means we need to be attentive to the 40 percent of the people who would rather not have casino gambling. We’re going to pay attention to their concerns, we’re going to pay attention to problem gambling, we’re going to pay attention to traffic, we’re going to pay attention to all the kinds of mitigation. The Legislature gave us the tools to do that.”

Crosby said the ballot campaign largely did not affect the burgeoning casino industry in Massachusetts, though there may have been a “small impact” in Springfield.

He added that Springfield, where MGM is building a resort casino, voted “overwhelmingly” against the repeal.

“Our position is if you’re going to have casino gambling, and the public has said we are, if you’re going to have it, we want it to be done as well as it can possibly be done,” Crosby said. “We want to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative consequences. People said, ’60-40, do it,’ all right, our job now is to get it done as well as we can possibly get it done.”

Crosby spoke to reporters after the commission unanimously voted to formally award licenses to MGM Springfield and Wynn, which is planning to build a resort casino in Everett. Wynn paid the $85 million licensing fee on Thursday, while MGM plans to pay its fee by Nov. 17.

The commission also voted to push back by two months application deadlines for the Region C license, citing uncertainty that had been created by the unsuccessful ballot question and ongoing questions about whether the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has the ability to build a casino in Taunton.

Commissioners unanimously approved three “placeholder” applications for live horseracing.

One application, from the New England Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Benevolent Association, asked for one day of horse racing at Suffolk Downs, which unsuccessfully partnered with Mohegan Sun for the greater Boston casino license that went to Wynn.

After they lost out on the casino license earlier this fall, Suffolk Downs officials who had pinned hopes on the license reviving the historic racetrack said over a thousand jobs would be lost.

The other two applications the commission approved on Thursday were from Raynham Park owner George Carney, who is seeking live horse racing at the Brockton Fairgrounds.

“We kept three different applications alive today, so there are a couple of possibilities out there for thoroughbred racing,” said Gayle Cameron, one of the gaming commission members. “We anticipate when the entities can get it together, a full application, that certainly we will consider.”

Asked how likely it is that Suffolk Downs will host racing next year, Cameron said, “I can’t speculate on that.”

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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