BOSTON — The head of the Massachusetts gambling commission is withdrawing from a crucial review of the land deal for a proposed casino in Everett because he is a longtime friend and former business partner of one of site’s owners.
Stephen Crosby says he has known Paul Lohnes, co-owner of the 29-acre site, since they were in the National Guard in the 1970s and that they were business partners from 1983 to 1990.
If Wynn Resorts wins the right to develop the former Monsanto chemical site into a $1.3 billion casino, the land sale would potentially be worth millions of dollars to Lohnes.
Crosby said he’s confident he could remain impartial, but recused himself to preserve public trust in the casino selection process.
“Given how demanding we’ve been with everybody else, it was appropriate for me to say: Look, this is a funky situation,” Crosby told The Boston Globe. “I could certainly be objective. I’ve complied with all the rules, but nevertheless I’m going to let the other commissioners figure out how the land gets handled.”
The commission has scheduled a Dec. 13 meeting to review a proposal by Wynn to address concerns about the land option mainly by reducing the planned sale price from an estimated $70 million to prevent any potential windfall for secret investors. The new price has not been disclosed.
If the land issue is resolved, Crosby said he plans to participate in the commission’s ongoing evaluation of the Wynn proposal, as well as its rival proposed for Suffolk Downs. The commission is scheduled to hold a hearing Dec. 16 to review the full state background check into Wynn Resorts.