A Statement from MGC’s Director of Communications about recent Boston Magazine article regarding the Region A casino licensing process

The following is a statement from MGC’s Director of Communications Elaine Driscoll about a recent Boston Magazine article regarding the Region A casino licensing process.

“Boston Magazine recently published an article about the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that blatantly omits essential facts and relevant context resulting in a flawed and misleading narrative of the Region A casino licensing process. The story is remarkable for its exclusions, misrepresentations, and innuendo.

First and foremost, the story centers on a demonstrably false premise alleging the Commission’s favoritism and bias for the Wynn casino proposal. The article regurgitates baseless claims from previous lawsuits that were wholly struck down and rejected by a Superior Court judge.

Here are the facts: Chairman Steve Crosby recused himself from the Region A license decision. A review by the State Ethics Commission, solicited by a party closely affiliated with the losing Region A bid, concluded that there was no evidence that Crosby participated in the Region A license decision after his voluntary recusal. As for the remaining four commissioners, indeed, a Superior Court judge determined that all allegations of bias or favoritism put forth to challenge the Region A license decision were “spurious.”  The judge further ruled that the lawsuit raised no facts “that would reasonably call into question [the Commissioners’] impartiality or that would suggest that illicit factors influenced their votes.” The Boston Magazine reporter was provided with this information, but for reasons inexplicable simply chose to ignore it.

On page 6, the reporter falsely claims that Steve Crosby acquiesced to a request by Wynn Resorts to remove consulting firm Spectrum Gaming from participating in the company’s initial suitability review. This is false. Crosby had no role in the administrative decisions about assignments for any of the casino suitability investigations. As the reporter was told in writing on September 12, 2018, but chose not to report, “The [Investigations and Enforcement Bureau] was authorized to make the necessary administrative decisions and to determine the appropriate allocation of resources.”

On page 6, the reporter misleads readers about the circumstances surrounding a public meeting and subsequent Executive Session that occurred on August 9, 2013. The reporter fails to mention that the anticipated Executive Session, which was authorized under the Commonwealth’s Open Meeting Law, was announced on the MGC’s official Meeting Notification and Agenda that was posted online and issued to the public 48 hours in advance of the public meeting, as required by law. The reporter’s intentional mischaracterization of the publicly available archive is a blatant attempt to insinuate dishonorable intent and is quite simply – wrong.

On page 7, the article falsely claims that “the gaming commission devised a convoluted solution” regarding the Everett land sale. In fact, Wynn proposed the solution in writing and the Commission approved that solution during a public meeting. The complete archive is available for review.

On page 7, the reporter offers an incomplete narrative regarding the oft-cited Caesars suitability review. The Commission never made a determination of suitability for Caesars Entertainment Corporation.  In fact, a decision on Caesars suitability never came before the commissioners. Suffolk Downs’ proactively made its own decision to terminate its partnership with Caesars after MGC investigators raised several issues during the background investigation.  The article improperly identifies a single reason for concern – a possible business connection to organized crime. That is inaccurate. At the time, investigators identified four specific areas of concern:  (1) a possible business connection to Russian organized crime; (2) the involvement of an executive-level staff member regarding crimes related to internet gambling which resulted in a non-prosecution agreement with the United States Attorney’s Office in New York; (3) a significant example of disregard for problem gambling mitigation; and (4) significant concerns related to the company’s financial stability or lack thereof.  It is worth noting that Caesars subsequently filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11.

On page 8, the reporter does not provide readers with fair and appropriate context surrounding Region A litigation matters.  Already described above is the reporter’s failure to mention a Superior Court ruling that the allegations of bias and favoritism (raised in a massive, several-hundred-paragraph complaint by the City of Boston challenging the award of the Region A casino license) were bogus.  The reporter further neglects to mention that several other lawsuits against the Commission alleging similar allegations of favoritism over the Region A license decision have all been dismissed. The only pending challenges to the license are brought by Mohegan Sun, the disappointed applicant, and three registered voters who happen to be represented by the same lawyers representing Mohegan Sun.

On page 8, the article mischaracterizes MGC’s review of the matter regarding Wynn and the Republican Governors Association. The MGC proactively reviewed this issue; it did not do so as a result of “facing pressure,” as the reporter would like readers to believe. The MGC thoroughly and transparently provided the public and the media with its findings during a public meeting and included a detailed explanation of its conclusions. Interested readers are welcome to review the publicly available findings provided in our comprehensive meeting archive dated February 22, 2018. This information was also provided to the reporter in writing on September 25, 2018, and subsequently disregarded.

Unfortunately, this partial and flawed narrative ignores relevant detail and context regarding the application process for the competing Region A bids from Suffolk Down and Mohegan Sun. It is astonishing that a reporter can claim to present an analysis of the Region A process and fail to provide these basic facts (that were explained in detail to the author before the publication of this article). This narrative of alleged Commission “bias” notably excludes the numerous occasions when the Commission made policy decisions in support of the continuance of the competing Suffolk Downs bid. Those decisions made by the Commission include: agreeing to allow Sterling Suffolk LLC (SSR) partner Vornado to put its interest into a blind trust; allowing SSR to remove Caesars as the operator of the project from its application and replace Caesars with Mohegan Sun; allowing SSR to change its project from one located in both Boston and Revere to a project located solely in the city of Revere; and allowing SSR to hold a new host community referendum in the City of Revere after the prior East Boston/Revere vote failed in East Boston. Again, all of these matters were articulated to the reporter and subsequently ignored.

The gross over-simplification that the Region A decision was based solely on the notion of a “WOW” factor is also wrong and ill-informed. The reporter was provided the extensive archive that demonstrates in exhaustive detail the considerable, thoughtful, and transparent evaluation process conducted for each available license. The reporter was presented with and subsequently ignored that publicly available information, too.

The Gaming Commission fully expected and welcomes the intense scrutiny associated with our challenging and demanding work.  We also fully expected that the unsuccessful applicant for the Region A license would be disappointed and that the disappointment might manifest itself in litigation and unsubstantiated bias and ethics claims.  While we will continue to defend against those baseless claims, they will not distract us from the important work ahead, including the determination via appropriate due process of Wynn’s suitability to maintain its license, and our unfailing commitment to conduct our work in a manner that is fair, thoughtful, and transparent.”

**An earlier version of this blog post mistakenly referenced former Attorney General Martha Coakley. We regret the error.

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