BOSTON — The Massachusetts Gaming Commission on Thursday hired Rick Day, currently head of the Washington State Gambling Commission, as its own executive director.
The commission unanimously approved Day after a public interview. Day has an extensive background in criminal justice and spent the last 20 years working in state law enforcement and regulatory work involving gambling investigations and compliance. He launched the gaming commission in Montana, and began his career in 1975 as a police officer in that state.
Since 2001, he had led the Washington State Gambling Commission, the second oldest commission in the country, overseeing 28 tribal casinos and 3,500 gaming licenses. He manages 150 employees, including special agents, auditors and licensing units. He also negotiates the tribal-state gaming compacts on behalf of the state.
“This is our most important hire, maybe the most important hire the commission will ever make,” Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said before Day was approved.
Day was the sole finalist for the job. A second finalist from Indiana declined the final public interview, saying she was unable to relocate, commission members said.
The key addition comes nine months after the commission’s interim director, Stan McGee, opted against accepting the post after his appointment came under fire due to four-year-old allegations that he sexually abused a teenage boy in Florida in December 2007. Florida prosecutors investigated the claims and determined there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against McGee.
The executive director will be responsible for administering and enforcing the state’s gaming law, and assist the Gaming Commission in developing policy and procedures for regulating gaming in Massachusetts. The executive director will also lead the commission staff.
Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, who led the search, said the pool initially included 100 people with industry experience before it was narrowed to 21 prospective candidates. Recruiting an executive director was challenging because prospective directors all lived in other states, and some candidates shied away from the public interview process because they are currently employed, Stebbins said.
Day hopes to move to Massachusetts within a month, joking with commission members he is ready to trade in his Seattle Mariners hat.
Crosby said one thing that concerned him about hiring an executive director was the compatibility between the chairman and the executive director, and how they would need work together with flexibility.
“The contact I have had has suggested to me you do have that kind of personality,” Crosby told Day before the vote.
Day said he was interested in joining a new team and wanted to “build a successful gambling industry.”
Commissioner Gayle Cameron said a reference she called described him as a “fixer.”
“Your experience is exactly what we need,” she said.
Day told commissioners he is interested in how Massachusetts is introducing gambling, limiting it to three casinos, one slots parlor, and building in protections for local businesses. He also said the complexity of the state law made him “pause.”
“I had pause for consideration on how to move forward, hiring that amount of staff, just locating qualified staff. What I went through in my mind is exactly how do you go about that,” Day said. “I have no, what you would call failsafe plan, but I think there are definite things to look for. This is all about Massachusetts and the implementation of Massachusetts law.”
As executive director in Washington, Day created an international task force with federal, state, and Canadian law enforcement agencies to investigate illegal internet gambling by investigating high-profile cases. He is also responsible for successfully executing and completing statewide criminal and regulatory gambling investigations including felony cheating, bookmaking and employee theft.
When he starts at the commission, Day said, he would take a look at technology.
“Technology and its ability to support the operations is an essential step,” he said, adding it can be hard to find people with technology experience in the gaming industry