Friday, December 27, 2013 • 12:08 PM Comments ()

Gaming Commission Ties Scrutinized

posted by Maureen Turner

An article in today’s Boston Herald comes down hard on the Mass Gaming Commission, calling it “an agency rife with potential conflicts that go far beyond the much-publicized ties of Chairman Stephen Crosby, with several staffers linked to people in the hunt for coveted gaming licenses.”

The story, by reporter Jack Encarnacao, looks at ethics disclosures made by several people connected to the commission, including member Bruce Stebbins, a former Springfield city councilor and economic development official for the city. Stebbins, MGC General Counsel Catherine Blue, Director of Administration Eileen Glovsky and Ombudsman John Ziemba “have had business or social relationships with people involved with companies seeking licenses,” Encarnacao writes.

In Stebbins’ case, the article points to campaign contributions he received during his time on the City Council from local attorney Frank Fitzgerald, who’s been hired by MGM to work on its proposed Springfield casino, and from Peter Picknelly, described as “an affiliate of the group behind the casino.”

“I don’t see anything that would preclude me or require me to recuse myself,” Stebbins told the newspaper in response.

The opposition group Citizens Against Casino Gaming recently called on Stebbins to recuse himself from voting on the MGM proposal, writing in an open letter to him: “Clearly, your former position as business development director in Springfield and two terms on the Springfield City Council serves as a basis for your impartiality to reasonably be questioned.”

I contacted Stebbins for his response to that letter but never heard back from him. MGC spokesperson Elaine Driscoll did give me this statement: “Commissioner Stebbins has complete confidence in his ability to conducted himself impartially. All members of the commission have a strong commitment to transparency and integrity and will continue to apply those standards to every decision made.”

On Monday, Stebbins joined a unanimous vote by the commission finding MGM suitable to apply for a casino license.

The Herald report follows the disclosure that MGC Chairman Stephen Crosby is an old friend and former business partner of Paul Lohnes, who owns property in Everett where Wynn Resorts has proposed building a casino. Caesars casino company has sued the commission alleging that Crosby had treated its proposal for a casino at the Suffolk Downs race track unfairly to favor Lohnes’ proposal. Suffolk Downs dropped Caesars as a partner this fall after concerns were raised about the likelihood of its passing the MGC review.

Earlier today, Wynn won the approval of the MGC to move forward its application for a casino license.

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