City of Boston-Wynn Feud Takes Center Stage at MGC Meeting

Massachusetts Gaming

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission held its 75th public meeting on August 22, 2013. The meeting began with a brief presentation by the Commission’s Director of Workforce Development, Jill Griffin, regarding statewide marine fisheries and local harvesters, followed by a vote to approve changes to horse racing regulations concerning medication and prohibited substances.

The Commission then turned to a discussion of how to best address the questions that will inevitably arise as applicants and communities begin to seek advisory opinions on a variety of issues. Commissioner McHugh suggested that the Commission start by laying out a few discretionary ground rules, then address the various issues as they arise on a case by case basis through a public or adjudicatory hearing. McHugh noted, “It is important for the public to understand the factual backdrop by which we make decisions.”

This led to a conversation regarding host communities, and whether the Commission should delegate to the local communities the responsibility for resolving special local issues. Chairman Stephen Crosby noted that there are issues that are beginning to arise that might be aided by the Commission’s general guidance, and he questioned whether it was time for the Commission to intercede in the dispute between the City of Boston and Wynn’s proposed casino development. Chairman Crosby expressed that he did not believe that the parties were served by having a battle in the press over this issue, citing his concern that public allegations of bullying and brow-beating could lead to the perception that there is a lack of integrity in the process. Ombudsman John Ziemba reported that he has been working with the parties to get them to come to an agreement, but that despite these efforts, he was less than optimistic that they would reach a resolution.

Chairman Crosby asked what would provide the most expeditious resolution of the issue—more intense discussions with the parties or more direct communication with counsel of the parties. Because the Chairman believed the parties were running out of time to resolve the issue in advance of the deadline for host community referenda votes, he wanted to propose additional solutions.

The Commission decided that it could not force the parties to come to the Commission and that the Commission could not hold an adjudicatory hearing to resolve this issue because the controversy was not properly before them. The Commission’s General Counsel Catherine Blue conceded that the Commission’s legal staff had not researched this issue, but that they may want to consider adopting regulations that would allow them to intervene in cases like this. The Commission indicated that it would be willing to accept a petition from each side requesting that the Commission resolve the issue.

The Commission concluded that nothing prevented it from inviting the parties in to discuss the issue. So the Commission decided that is how it would proceed. The Commission stated that it did not think that the way the matter has been proceeding is in the public interest. The Commission wants to use the full extent of its authority to uncover the impediments to the discussion and help expedite a resolution.

The Commission adjourned its meeting to go into executive session to discuss issues surrounding the pending KG Urban civil litigation.  KG Urban recently survived a Commonwealth motion to dismiss, allowing it to continue its claims against the Commonwealth which challenge the legality of the provision of the Gaming Act giving priority to a tribal casino in Southeastern Massachusetts.

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