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Ethics Complaint Against Gaming Chair Dismissed

State Gaming Commission Chair Stephen Crosby speaks during a ground breaking ceremony in March for the MGM casino resort scheduled to open in Springfield in 2017. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
State Gaming Commission Chair Stephen Crosby speaks during a ground breaking ceremony in March for the MGM casino resort scheduled to open in Springfield in 2017. (Stephan Savoia/AP)
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With the first slot parlor authorized under a 2011 law set to open in less than a week, the chair of the state Gaming Commission said Thursday an ethics complaint against him was dismissed.

In an email to commission staff thanking them for their work leading up to the opening of the slots parlor in Plainville, Gaming Commission chair Stephen Crosby wrote that he wanted to personally inform them the State Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint against him.

Crosby was in the spotlight over an accusation of potential conflict of interest during the awarding of an eastern Massachusetts casino license last year.

"Although it is profoundly discouraging to have my integrity or that of the process called into question, this development yet again substantiates our pledge to operate in a 'participatory, transparent and fair' manner," he wrote. "Like any organization, we must always strive for improvement, but I sincerely believe that we are demonstrating how the best public policy decision making can be done, in a uniquely transparent and participatory manner."

He added: "Our agency will remain committed to those fundamental principles, and when necessary, we will staunchly defend our commitment to those principles."

Crosby's email was sent just before the start of a Gaming Commission meeting.

Earlier on Thursday, the Ethics Commission sent a letter to Crosby's attorney, Michael Ricciuti of K & L Gates, saying they voted to end the preliminary inquiry "based on lack of evidence."

"This matter is now closed," the commission said in the letter.

The commission received a sworn complaint from an unidentified person on Oct. 1 2014, alleging Crosby violated the state's conflict of interest law, and in mid-October, the commission authorized the preliminary inquiry.

The statement alleged that Crosby got involved with licensing in eastern Massachusetts — also known as "Region A" — after recusing himself in May 2014.

The existence of the preliminary inquiry surfaced in the Boston Globe last week.

Days later, Crosby told reporters he had been cooperating with the inquiry and denied any wrongdoing. Saying he followed ethics regulations and often asked the Ethics Commission for advice, he added that the commission had sent him a letter before the inquiry telling him he was "doing all the things I should be doing."

His fellow gambling commissioners backed him during a meeting last week. "At no time after he recused himself on May 8, did Chairman Steve Crosby offer to me publicly or privately any suggestion, opinion or hint whatsoever about how any aspect or component of the Region A licensing decision should be resolved," said Gaming Commissioner James McHugh, who took over as chair of the "Region A" licensing effort after Crosby recused himself.

The license was ultimately awarded in September 2014 to Wynn Resorts, which plans to build a $1.7 billion casino in Everett and is aiming to open it in 2018. Mohegan Sun had proposed building a casino on Suffolk Downs racetrack land in Revere.

Crosby, appointed chair of the Gaming Commission by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2011, had a friend who owned land that was eventually sold to Wynn.

"As the commissioner [McHugh] said, when I recused myself, I was totally out of it. I had nothing to do with the decision-making on the license," Crosby told reporters last week.

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