Alert August 21, 2012

Update: Massachusetts Gaming Commission Holds Weekly Meeting

On August 21, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission convened another public meeting. Commissioner McHugh chaired the session in Chairman Crosby’s absence. Commissioner Zuniga was also absent from the meeting. This week’s highlights included:

Administration

Executive Director Update

  • Pennsylvania search firm, Juristaff, is still in the process of culling executive director candidates. Commissioner Stebbins has begun speaking with some of the candidates over the phone. Once the initial phone interviews are done, Commissioner Stebbins will narrow down the pool and invite some of the candidates to Boston for in-depth discussions with the commissioners. The majority of the candidates thus far are from outside of Massachusetts. The job posting will remain open until September 7.

Legal Positions

  • Commissioner McHugh reported that he hopes to have the general counsel position posted the week of August 27. He is in the process of drafting the job description for approval at the next Commission meeting.
  • Juristaff has provided Commissioner McHugh with five resumes for the staff attorney position thus far, and Commissioner McHugh expected to receive five more by the end of  the week. Commissioner McHugh said he hopes to have a finalist selected soon so that person can clear the background check process and get started.
  • Commissioner McHugh is also considering the need for legal support staff, such as a paralegal, and other team members who could come on board to focus on the Commission’s regulations and oversight of racing.

Deputy Director of the Investigations and Enforcement Branch (“IEB”)

  • Commissioner Cameron is finalizing the job description for the IEB position based on conversations with the Commission’s gaming consultants and hopes to be able to bring the description to the Commission for a vote next week.

Report From the Director of Administration

  • Eileen Glovsky, who has been in the role of Director of Administration for the past month, gave her first report to the Commission. Ms. Glovsky is working on a request for information (“RFI”) as to the research agenda the Commission is expected to undertake as part of its duties under the Gaming Act. The goal of the RFI is to invite academics and researchers to provide information to help the Commission determine how best to move forward to comply with its research obligations.
  • Ms. Glovsky has also been overseeing the process of accepting the letters of intent and $400,000 applicant fee from would-be casino operators. Ms. Glovsky reiterated the requirement that original copies of documents must be in the Commission’s hand before they will accept a check or send wiring instructions for the fee.
  • Comparing the Commission to a start-up company trying to make it to the Fortune 500 within a year, Ms. Glovsky discussed the role NetPoint software will have in helping the Commission stay in front of project management issues. Ms. Glovsky has been working closely with PMA, the Commission’s project management consultants.

Racing Division

  • The Commission has received “a handful for resumes” for the racing director position. Commissioner Cameron said she will keep the job posting open until after Labor Day.
  • Commissioner Cameron updated the Commission on the inaugural meeting of the Racing Committee. The Racing Committee was created to determine the division of funds generated by racing activities. The Committee consists of Commissioner Cameron plus a representative chosen by the Governor, one chosen by Treasurer Grossman, and two Horsemen’s Association representatives.
  • Commissioner Cameron also discussed a request for settlement that had come in from someone against whom the Racing Division had made a tentative finding. Commissioner Cameron told the potential appellant’s attorney to submit something in writing. The commissioners voted to extend the statutory deadline for response to September 14 to give the potential appellant time to make a written submission on the issue.

  Project Work Plan

Consultant Status Report

  • The consultants are finalizing the draft RFA Phase II regulations. The draft RFA I regulations have already been published for public comment. RFA Phase I is the prequalification step, which involves financial and criminal background checks. The RFA Phase II process involves submission of detailed development plans for casino hopefuls.
  • In addition, the consultants are working on an RFA Phase I supplement form which would require full disclosure by prospective applicants of contributions to local officials in the prospective host communities.
  • The consultants plan to present the Commission with their first draft of the strategic plan on September 10. The consultants have been following a “hybrid” approach, working on the RFA Phase I regulations and the strategic plan simultaneously. Consultant Frederick Gushin told the Commission this approach allowed the Commission to accelerate the Phase I process, rather than waiting for the strategic plan to first be finalized.
  • The consultants also discussed the timing of drafting the Commission’s casino oversight regulations, for once facilities are operational. The consultants noted that there is some wisdom in having those regulations drafted prior to the release of the RFA Phase II so that prospective licensees understand the regulatory process that would govern their casino.
  • The consultants envision entering into memoranda of understanding with other gaming jurisdictions (e.g., Nevada and Ohio) to streamline sharing of information on an expedited basis.

Ombudsman Search Update

  • According to Commissioner Stebbins, the Commission has heard from over a dozen “good candidates” who are interested in serving in an ombudsman capacity. Commissioner Stebbins is meeting with candidates and plans to narrow the larger group down to several finalists who will interview with Chairman Crosby.
  • Commissioner Stebbins noted that the Commission’s chief of staff is keeping track of all applicants so that the Commission has a good pool of candidates already in hand for positions that open up in the future.
  • Until an official ombudsman is in place, Chairman Crosby has been filling the role. Chairman Crosby has met with two developers (presumably Suffolk Downs and Plainridge Race Track,a slots only license contender,, the first two applicants to submit letters of intent) and arranged access to the Department of Transportation for the two.

Public Education and Information

  • Commissioner McHugh stressed that the Commission makes an effort to respond to every question posted to the comments section of its site. He encouraged those with questions to utilize that forum. Communications Director Elaine Driscoll also makes sure questions received through Facebook and Twitter are answered.
  • The diversity inclusion forum has been moved from September 17 to September 19.  Chairman Crosby is spearheading that forum.
  • Commissioner Stebbins reported that various community colleges are entering into memoranda of understanding to work on getting a casino training curriculum up and running. Commissioner McHugh advocated the Commission take its ability to certify such courses seriously to protect people from less than legitimate online courses that might start to pop up as the state’s casino process moves forward.

Application Process

  • The Commission is still on track to issue the RFA Phase I by mid-October. According to Ms. Driscoll, the Commission is holding three separate public hearings on the draft RFA Phase I regulations on September 10. The consultants envision working on the RFA Phase II process and regulations starting in mid-October and continuing into the first quarter of 2013. The consultants stressed the importance of making the regulations immune to legal challenge, citing suits brought in other jurisdictions over the RFP and selection processes.
  • For the drafting process of the Phase II regulations, Ms. Driscoll is looking into using some sort of wiki-based approach through which the public would be able to suggest edits to the regulations as the process progressed. Commissioner McHugh noted that such an approach might not comport with records keeping laws, but was in favor of looking into whether this sort of collaborative approach could work.

 

A copy of the agenda, full transcript and video archive of the August 21 meeting can be found here. The next meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Tuesday, August 28 at the Division of Insurance 1st Floor, Meeting Room E, 1000 Washington Street Boston, Mass. The August 21 meeting agenda is available on the Commission’s website.

 

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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.