April 10, 2012

Update: Massachusetts Gaming Commission Holds First Public Meeting

On April 10, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission held its first public meeting, which was attended by a member of Goodwin Procter’s Gaming, Gambling & Sweepstakes Practice. Below is a summary of our observations from the meeting.

It looks like the open meeting law will make for some long (and frequent) meetings of the Commission as it cannot make any decisions without providing notice and public access to the meeting in which the decision is made. Thus, anytime there is a quorum of the members, the meeting will be public. Also, Commissioner McHugh pointed out that if it ever has two members working on an issue, those two members become a sub-committee under the Commonwealth’s gaming law and any deliberations by the pair must also be public. The solution seems to be that anytime the Commission needs someone to look into something in a timely manner, only one commissioner will spearhead the issue and then report back to the larger group at the next public meeting.

Some of the more pertinent highlights of the 3½ hour meeting:

  • Commissioner McShane was unanimously elected secretary and Commissioner Zuniga was unanimously elected treasurer.
  • The Commission interviewed the two finalist organizations in the race for gaming consultant. The contenders are Michael & Carroll and Spectrum Gaming Group, both out of New Jersey. Commissioner Cameron recused herself from the decision-making process due to her New Jersey ties and connections with members of both organizations.

    Ultimately, the Commission decided each group had its strengths and weaknesses and rather than choose one at this juncture, it would explore the possibility of using each in different areas based on their strengths. Michael & Carroll concentrated on state and federal law enforcement, with most of its presentation focused on the compliance aspects of the Commission's mandate. Spectrum Gaming focused more on the RFP process for licenses and keeping things on an ambitious timeline that would include bringing together key stakeholders (e.g., the AG's office, state police and the state budget office) within the next two weeks (the commissioners seemed doubtful this could be accomplished so quickly).

    The Commission agreed to qualify both consulting groups (pending a background check to confirm no conflicts or prior improprieties). As that happens, Chairman Crosby has committed to working up a scope of work proposal that would utilize both firms without overlap in their areas of focus. The Commission has left open the possibility that, despite qualifying both firms, it could still ultimately choose a sole consultant.
  • The Commission has selected Cambridge firm Anderson & Krieger, LLP to advise it on (i) the drafting of its code of ethics, (ii) compliance with open meeting law requirements, (iii) FOIA requirements and best practices for creating a records system that will facilitate efficient and easy compliance, and (iv) other self-governance rules and regulations needed for the Commission. The Commission is interested in creating its own enhanced rules (which would be more tailored to the Commission's needs than MGL ch. 268(A) and (B)'s conflict of interest provisions). Once qualified, Anderson & Krieger will assist in drafting these rules.
  • It was clear the Commission feels that the timeline to take the reins of the Racing Commission (currently residing in the Division of Professional Licensure) is a tight one. The Commission is slated to take control of the Racing Commission on May 20. Commissioner Cameron will be charged with looking into an industry consultant to assist in the transition, with a particular emphasis on the need to distribute funds from the Racing Stabilization Fund. Commissioners Cameron and Zuniga submitted a resolution to enable the Commission to negotiate with third parties in order to properly distribute these funds.
  • In other tight deadline news, the Commission blew its April 1 deadline to report to the legislature with recommendations regarding the management and oversight of charitable gaming endeavors. Chairman Crosby noted the magnitude of the undertaking, with Massachusetts charities bringing in $1-2 billion in revenue each year. The Commission will also be looking for a consultant to assist in getting it up to speed on this aspect of its duties.
  • The Commission ended the meeting by addressing staffing. Karen Schwartzman of Polaris PR has been spearheading communications thus far but is gearing up the search for a full-time communications liaison. The Commission voted to extend a permanent chief of staff position to Janice Reilly. Reilly had worked with Chairman Crosby as his chief of staff during his tenure as the Commonwealth's Secretary of Administration and Finance.

The next meeting is scheduled for April 24 at 1 pm. Chairman Crosby also said there could well be a meeting before the 24th given the amount of work to be done.

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Those interested in learning more about Goodwin Procter’s gaming and gambling expertise and practice, and those interested in pursuing any of the recommendations outlined above, should contact either of the authors, David Apfel or Bob Crawford, co-chairs of Goodwin Procter’s Gaming, Gambling & Sweepstakes Practice.