The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is on track to make a decision on June 13th to award the lone resort casino license in western Massachusetts. The commission chairman says he will be part of the decision- making process.
Chairman Stephen Crosby presided over the commission’s public hearing in Springfield Wednesday, the first public meeting for the gaming regulators since Crosby removed himself last week from any further role in the casino licensing process in the greater Boston area.
" I'm sorry this stuff has happened that has distracted from the commission's work. I want very much to have people feel confident in this. There is a lot of stuff floating around out there that has created a distraction, and I am sorry about that."
Crosby, speaking with reporters during a break in the hearing, said he intends to remain chairman of the five-member commission. He was appointed to a seven- year term by Governor Deval Patrick in 2011.
" I have a long history people can look at. People are going to be seeing the process. It is wide open to everybody. You are going to see what I say about every issue and I trust people will come away from that with the belief I am honorable and thoughtful and objective in my work."
Five candidates for governor, and others, have called on Crosby to resign. Governor Patrick has dismissed the calls for Crosby’s resignation as “just politics.”
Crosby decided last week to recuse himself from the casino licensing decision for eastern Massachusetts because of lingering questions over his impartiality. Crosby was criticized last year for not disclosing prior business ties with an owner of the land in Everett, where Wynn Resorts proposes a casino. New allegations of bias were raised when Crosby attended a party to mark the opening of the racing season at Suffolk Downs, the other competitor for the greater Boston casino.
" In retrospect I wish I had not gone to the opening day celebration. I still think it was a minor matter. It did not pass the appearance sniff-test. That was a mistake."
Crosby said he will fully participate in all the commission’s regulatory business and in the evaluation of MGM’s application for a casino license in Springfield. MGM is the only remaining applicant in western Massachusetts. The commission is scheduled to meet on June 13 to vote to award the license.
" We have not seen any red flags yet," said Crosby.
The final public hearing on the MGM casino project drew a sparse crowd to the MassMutual Center. There were about 50 people in the audience when the hearing began. More than 300 people attended a public hearing in the same venue on April 1st.
As at the earlier hearing, the commissioners heard from several staunch anti-casino activists, including Ted Steger of Longmeadow, a member of “No Casino Springfield.”
" There is no rush. Let the repeal process play out and hopefully it will be a moot point in November."
Vera O’Connor, a resident of Springfield for 50 years, urged commissioners to approve MGM’s casino license application.
" I would say the people who are most opposed to a casino in Springfield are people who do not live in Springfield. Most of them work in Springfield, get their paychecks, and scurry off to the suburbs."
MGM Springfield President Mike Mathis said he is looking forward to the commission’s June 13th licensing determination. But, he is also warily eyeing the efforts to put a referendum on the November ballot to repeal casino gaming in Massachusetts.
" What I am concerned most about is the six-month delay if it has to go on the November ballot. That's a six month delay for the construction jobs and everything we're trying to do here."
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is weighing if the question can appear on the ballot to ask voters to repeal the 2011 gaming law.