A Whirlwind Week on Mass. Casino Scene

Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby has recused himself from proceedings involving the Eastern Massachusetts casino license.
Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby has recused himself from proceedings involving the Eastern Massachusetts casino license. –John Tlumacki, The Boston Globe

If you had mid-May of this year as the point at which implementation of the state’s gambling legislation would explode into a hornets’ nest of legal threats and perceived conflicts of interest, cash in now.

It’s been a busy week on the casino front.

On Thursday, Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby, in the face of claims that he has gotten cozy with the brass at the competing Everett and Revere casino sites, stepped away from any decision-making around the licensing of an Eastern Massachusetts casino.

Given that he’s supposed to be the head decision maker, Crosby is now facing calls for his outright resignation. The chorus includes five candidates for governor in this fall’s election. The Boston Globe reports:

Democrats Steve Grossman, Martha Coakley, and Juliette Kayyem, Republican Charlie Baker, and Independent Evan Falchuk all said Crosby should resign to allow the awarding of the license to move forward without controversy.

Among the first things Crosby recused himself from was the commission’s Thursday vote to determine whether the City of Boston has claim to “host community’’ status for either of those sites. Had the commission said yes, East Boston would have had the opportunity to vote on whether or not to allow the Mohegan Sun-Suffolk Downs proposal in Revere, and Charlestown to do so for the Everett site. East Boston, of course, already once voted whether to allow a casino that straddled its border with Revere and soundly rejected it, leading the Suffolk Downs proposal to scoot itself fully within Revere’s borders.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh on Friday said his administration believes it has “multiple options available’’ to continue the fight for host community status.

Meanwhile, the Boston Business Journal reports that Somerville’s negotiations for mitigation compensation from Wynn Resorts, the developer behind the Everett casino, have reached the point of bitterness. Each side has objected to the other’s proposed arbiter in determining what Somerville should get in mitigation of the potential effects of having a casino so nearby.

Keep in mind, the gaming board hopes to issue the Boston-area license by the end of the summer.


All of the above, however, is moot if a voter referendum makes its way on to ballots this November and results in a repeal of the 2011 gaming legislation. In order to make that happen, the group advocating for the question will need to convince the Supreme Judicial Court to allow it. On Sunday, however, the Globe reported that one judge—Justice Robert Cordy—has past ties to both the Suffolk Downs and Everett sites.

It turns out Cordy has more than a passing familiarity with the difficulties casino companies have doing business in Massachusetts. In the 1990s, Cordy was a lawyer and a lobbyist for Suffolk Downs, one of two possible locations for the Eastern Massachusetts casino, and a second gambling company that was seeking to build a casino in the state.

Cordy also served as senior adviser to Governor William Weld, who is now an attorney for Steve Wynn, Suffolk Downs's rival for the Boston-area casino license.

In fairness to Cordy, his work for Suffolk Downs came under previous ownership. But it’s still not a very good look. A court spokesperson told the Globe Cordy has recused himself from some cases in his career, but did not offer any specific cases.

So, to recap. The gaming board commissioner won’t play a role in deciding which Eastern Massachusetts casino receives a license. Boston is going to continue its quest for host community status while Somerville’s standoff over the Everett proposal remains terse. And the group that wants to just do away with the casino laws altogether is presenting its case to somebody with ties to the sites desperately vying for said casinos.

Let the games begin.

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