The five member Massachusetts Gaming Commission held its first public meeting Tuesday as it set about to bring casino gambling to the state. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Declaring the decades long debate over whether to bring casinos to Massachusetts is over, Stephen Crosby, the chairman of the powerful gaming commission, said he and the other four appointees were ready to get to work to implement the public policy in the best way they can. He pledged that much of that work would take place in full public view.
The commission’s first meeting held on the campus of UMass Boston was streamed live on the commission’s website.
There was no opportunity for the public to speak at this inaugural meeting of the gaming commission, but chairman Crosby promised there would be public forums in the future and meetings would be held in all parts of the state.
The first meeting delt almost exclusively with what Crosby described as organizational and house keeping matters.
The commission approved a mission statement, procurement rules and approved a one year lease for an office in downtown Boston. Chairman Crosby said initially the commission will have a staff of about 30 people, but in coming years that could grow to as large as 150 people.
The commissioners interviewed two finalists to be their gaming consultant, both New Jersey based firms, Michael and Carrol and Spectrum Gaming Group.
The commission is empowered under the state’s gaming law to set the rules for gaming companies to bid for licenses, to review the applications, award the licenses and monitor the casinos after the doors open for business to ensure compliance with the regulations the commission will write, and the revenue sharing mandated in the law.
Up to three licenses for resort casinos can be issued in each of three regions. Several gaming companies are expected to vie for the lone license in western Massachusetts including Mohegan Sun, Ameristar, Hard Rock International and MGM Resorts.
Gaming Commissioner Bruce Stebbins of Springfield, in an interview prior to today’s meeting said he was not surprised by the level of competition.
Under timetables discussed publically by the gambling commissioners, the first casino licenses will likely be awarded next year, with construction starting in late 2013 and the first Massachusetts casino opening about five years from now..