July 10, 2012

Update: Massachusetts Gaming Commission Holds Weekly Meeting

On July 10, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission convened another public meeting. This week’s highlights included:

Executive Search

  • Jim Larosa and Jennifer Rumain of JuriStaff presented their Executive Director search plans to the Commission. As potential candidates often have many questions upfront, the consultants want to get as much information about the role as possible before actually contacting any candidates. To that end, Commissioner Stebbins will serve as JuriStaff’s Commission point person. Mr. Larosa and Ms. Rumain will have individual conversations with all of the commissioners to get a sense of each person’s view of the role. Any divergent views on the role will be discussed at next week’s meeting.
  • Commissioner McHugh brought up the concern from last week over how to proceed once JuriStaff begins recommending candidates. The concern centers around confidentiality of applicants who may not want their name disclosed in the event they do not get the position. Commissioner McHugh will put together a memorandum on the issue for the Commission.

Additional Hires

  • Eileen Glovsky, currently the Commonwealth’s Deputy Treasurer for Administrative Operations, was hired as the Commission’s Director of Administrative Services.

Internal Policies

  • Commissioner Zuniga has completed the employee handbook. Commissioner McHugh is reviewing it. The hope is that a completed draft will be circulated to the other commissioners in advance of a vote to approve the handbook at next week’s meeting.

Project Management Consultant

  • Scott Libby of PMA Consultants, the project management consultant, presented PMA’s plan for an initial planning session followed by preparation of the planning software.

Racing Division

  • Commissioner Cameron reported two adjudicatory decisions to the Commission. The first decision involved a trainer who had been ejected from Suffolk Downs after selling an employer’s horse without permission in order to settle debts. The second concerned an appeal from the denial of a license. After the parties have made their objections, the Commission will discuss the final decision.
  • Commissioner Cameron also informed the Commission that the racing consultant’s report should be distributed by the end of the week to be discussed at the next meeting.

Project Work Plan

  • The commission received six responses to the request for comment on development of the RFA Phase I regulations (RFA-1). This phase of the RFA process will consist of financial viability and background checks of prospective licensees. The two comments of note came from Suffolk Downs and MGM. Both may be found in the Commissioner Packet.
  • The Suffolk comments, prepared by DLA Piper, focused on leaving some matters, such as procedures for applying guidelines, to policy statements rather than regulations to give the Commission broader discretion. Suffolk also proposed using the multistate application to qualify individuals, defining the scope of what individuals must do to show they are qualified to get a license, preserving confidentiality and providing a way to start permitting processes while the RFA-1 process is underway. The Commission noted that all the issues flagged by Suffolk are being dealt with.
  • MGM’s comment, prepared by Brown Rudnick, questioned the wisdom of the bifurcated process, arguing that bifurcation lengthens the application process. The commissioners disagreed with this view.
  • Guy Michael, Bob Carroll, and Bernie Murphy of Michael & Carroll and Frederic Gushin and Michael Epps of Spectrum Gaming Group presented the first draft of the regulation concerning RFA-1. There were several issues that had to be further discussed:
    • Many developers have entered into agreements with municipalities to cover the municipalities’ cost of vetting suitors. The consultants recommended (and the commissioners agreed) that these agreements should be disclosed.
    • There was some confusion as to whether, under the Gaming Act, the Bureau of Investigations must cease investigating an applicant and refer the matter to the Commission whenever an issue arises, or if the Bureau may finish its background check before submitting a determination to the Commission. The consultants will provide several alternate regulations on this issue for the Commission to consider.
    • The Commission agreed with the consultants that deadlines for applications should be firm, but that there should be flexibility in curing immaterial omissions.
    • The consultants and most of the commissioners agreed that withdrawal should be at the permission of the Commission. Chairman Crosby does not see the value in requiring an applicant to seek approval to withdraw. Since there was a majority in favor, however, he agreed that the consultants should write regulations giving withdrawal approval to the Commission.
    • The Commission had previously agreed that “Applicant” status attached upon payment of the $400,000 application fee. Since access to state agencies is conditioned on applicant status, the Commission was worried that agencies would be overburdened by developers who rushed to pay the fee without first developing serious proposals. Therefore, it decided that the fee could be paid anytime between when the RFA-1 is issued and the date the application is actually submitted.
  • The commissioners discussed their concerns that there is little competition for the license in the Eastern Region. The consultants said much of this could be due to economic factors such as availability of land and over-saturation in the tourism industry. The consultants did, however, discuss the possibility of opening up communication with non-traditional gaming investors such as investment houses. The commissioners and consultants will develop this idea.

Public Education and Information

  • Chairman Crosby will be meeting with State Representative Keiko Orrall and community members from the Taunton, Lakeville and Freetown area to discuss the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s proposed casino. The commissioners all agreed that they should make themselves available for such meetings, as communities frequently direct their questions to their state representatives.
  • Commissioner Stebbins informed the Commission that he is hoping to have the community mitigation forum to be held in western Massachusetts on either August 2 or August 8. The forum will cover community mitigation, tourism, and workforce development.

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