MA Gaming Commission Members Said to Have Casino Connections
In the wake of the exit of Caesars Entertainment from the much talked-about casino license race in Massachusetts because of the company’s connection to an investor who is alleged to have ties to organized crime, the Boston Herald has revealed that several members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission themselves have questionable relationships with the very casinos that are vying to be permitted to operate in the state.
Already there has been some attention paid to the head of the state’s regulating body, Stephen Crosby. Now, ethics disclosures have brought out more information, with four additional members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission uncovering affiliations with companies seeking a permit to run land-based casino operations in the Bay State.
Mix of personal and professional relationships
The paper reported on Friday that along with Crosby, Commissioner Bruce Stebbins; Catherine Blue, the main attorney representing the Gaming Commission; the Director of Administration, Eileen Glovsky; and the panel’s ombudsman, John Ziemba, all have revealed either personal or business ties to concerned parties.
Some examples of these ties include shared membership at country clubs, family members in the employment of attorneys representing casino interests, and the receipt of campaign contributions from applicants, among others.
According to gaming expert and Boston College Professor Richard McGowan, “Circumstantially, it doesn’t look good, I’ll say that much. They knocked down Caesars from getting a license because they had some contact with a guy. You’re always going to have some kind of connections.”
Caesars Entertainment suing panel’s head
McGowan had advised Caesars during its partnership with the historic East Boston racetrack Suffolk Downs.
The two companies had been working to win a license to operate a new resort-casino at the site of the track, however Caesars was asked by Suffolk Downs to back away from the project only days ahead of a must-win public referendum on the matter, held on November 5, after a warning came that Caesars was likely to be deemed unsuitable to operate in Massachusetts, a state thought to be among the most stringent in the nation in terms of casino regulations.
At issue was a financier involved in a Nevada hotel redevelopment project, German-born Arik Kislin. Kislin, an investor in a project that would have seen the old Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall on the Las Vegas Strip remade into version of a trendy New York hotel, the Gansevoort, was found to be linked to Russian underworld figures, including a reported hit man.
Earlier this month Caesars sued the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Stephen Crosby, both personally and in his capacity of head of that board.
Caesars maintains that Crosby failed to publicize a friendship with a man named Paul Lohnes, who is a part-owner of a piece of land that could house a new Wynn casino resort. Wynn has proposed a new $1.2 billion casino in the city of Everett on the site of what was once a Monsanto chemical facility.
Crosby and Lohnes served together in the National Guard and have also had a business relationship. Prior to Caesars’ hasty retreat from Massachusetts, Caesars and Wynn were both in the running to win the sole casino license that will be granted for the Boston area sometime in early 2014.
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