Healey pushes for tight rein on cash machines in casinos

Healey raised concerns last year during a push to address access to cash machines at casinos

Photo Courtesy: MGNonline

BOSTON (State House News Service) – Citing “significant” ambiguity about where ATMs can appear in casinos, Attorney General Maura Healey on Thursday urged state gambling commissioners to consider capping withdrawals and prohibiting credit card cash advances.

Testifying before the state gambling commission on her first day on the job, Healey urged the commission to have a “standalone” public process for regulation of ATMs in casinos and to establish a “wide range of protections,” including setting ATMS a certain distance from the casino floor.

Healey raised concerns last year during a late-session legislative push to address access to cash machines at casinos; lawmakers ultimately backed away from handling the issue in a banking laws bill.

The five-member commission that took Healey’s testimony is tasked with implementing the 2011 expanded gambling law. Penn National plans to open a slots parlor in Plainville in June 2015, while other developers are seeking to open casinos in Everett and Springfield in the next few years.

Healey’s victory at the polls in November, as a ballot question effort to repeal the law failed, placed a gambling skeptic in the state’s chief law enforcement job. In her testimony, Healey noted that casinos are arriving in the Bay State as they’re declining in Atlantic City and struggling in neighboring Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Healey (D-Charlestown) told the gambling commission on Thursday that her office will be offering more details of her stances and proposed changes to the tentative regulations in a letter next week.

Gaming Commissioner Stephen Crosby said the state Division of Banks offered an interpretation to the commission that says ATMs can be placed within the resort casino but not within the “gaming area.” Tentative regulations say ATMs can’t be closer to the area than 15 feet.

“So at the moment, it’s 15 feet, we’ll rethink that and based on all the comments we’ve gotten and see whether we think there’s any need to move it further out,” Crosby said.

Healey said in her testimony the commission’s proposed gambling regulations allow casinos to seek variances from the regulations.

“We believe that no casino should be allowed to deviate from important consumer protection regulations, and that any other variance should be sought subject to a full and transparent public process,” she said.

Healey added that the proposed prohibition on placing a lien on a homeowner’s primary residence to collect outstanding gambling debt is “important,” but that the commission should add language “explicitly” banning casino licensees from selling consumers’ gambling debt.

“Any allegations” of organized crime, corruption, money laundering and human trafficking related to the casino industry in Massachusetts will be investigated by her office, she said.

Members of the gambling commission told Healey they hoped to continue the partnership they have had with the attorney general’s office.

“I think you’ll see as you serve and learn more, many of the things you talk about we believe are very important,” said Gayle Cameron, who joined the commission in 2012 after a career as a public safety consultant and a member of the New Jersey State Police.

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