Mass. Gaming Commission Holds First Public Meeting

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The new Massachusetts Gaming Commission started its first public meeting Tuesday by adopting a mission statement that states the goal of creating "a fair, open and transparent process for implementing gambling."

The statement also says it wants "an appropriate return on investment for gaming providers that assures the operation of casino-resorts of the highest quality."

Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby admits it may seem strange to put casino profits in the mission statement.

"We have to find a really careful balance here," Crosby said, "where we can get every penny and every item of mitigation as we can possibly get for the people of Massachusetts, but we have to do it in a way that lets these folks see that by bringing big money into our commonwealth, and investing in our commonwealth, that they can get the kind of return they want and it’s not going to be an easy line to walk."

By comparison, the mission statement for Nevada’s gaming commission makes no mention of wanting casino companies to make money.

One of the commission’s most important tasks Tuesday was to select a gambling consultant. Because none of the five commissioners has any experience in the industry, it’s seen as a critical choice. The consultant will help the commission with everything from making a strategic plan for the start-up phase to creating a timeline to implement the law.

After hearing presentations from two finalist firms, both from New Jersey, the panel felt that both brought something different to the table, so they voted to negotiate to hire both firms.

One firm, Michael & Carroll, is run by former law enforcement officials and is strong on the regulatory front. It proposed a team of five, including former Boston Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole, to work with the panel. Robert Carroll said his company has guided other states in creating casinos.

"All of us have been involved, on many occasions, from starting up gaming commissions from zero. I mean, literally, like you are — no desk, no pens, no telephones — nothing whatsoever to start," Carroll said. "We’ve been there, we’ve done it."

However, the commission felt Carroll's firm wasn’t strong in planning and organization. So it decided to hire Spectrum Gaming Group as well because the panel found it to be more focused on organizational structure. Spectrum, headed by Fred Gushin, has most recently advised Ohio on its roll out of casinos.

"Our focus has always been on the integrity of the process, integrity of the regulatory process," Gushin said. "It certainly behooves everybody, including the casinos, when that process is transparent, fair and has the highest level of integrity."

The commission members also discussed that the commission is not ready to absorb the duties of the State Racing Commission by the end of May, as the law stipulates. They also deferred further discussion of the charitable gaming provision.

Chairman Crosby reminded the audience that the commission has only been fully formed for about three weeks and must move in an open and deliberate manner.

"There are a lot of people who are understandably impatient. They want this process to get moving for lots of reasons, and so do we," Crosby said. "One issue is we need to do it right, but the second issue is we do have this important law."

The law requires most of their deliberations and hirings to be public, which can complicate personnel decisions. But after the first meeting, the shape of the gaming commission is coming into focus.

Eventually the commission will grow to have 100 to 150 employees around the state, but for the first year it'll be housed in an office in downtown Boston with space for 30.

This article was originally published on April 10, 2012.

This program aired on April 10, 2012.


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