CASINO

Mass. Gambling Commission to have wide powers

TAGs: Devel patrick, Massachusetts

Massachusetts Gambling CommissionA Gambling Commission appointed in Massachusetts will have wide-reaching powers under a bill that’s expected to be signed in the coming days. The five-member Commission will be the state’s all seeing eye over the casino industry and bidding process with almost every power coming under their jurisdiction. Governor Devel Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley and state Treasurer Steven Grossman all get to choose a member of the Commission with the remaining two being decided by the group. The famous five will then be complete!

In addition to approving and denying casino licenses, the chosen ones will scrutinize yearly financial reports, issue subpoenas, be responsible for hiring and firing of Commission colleagues and carry out investigations. Anyone questioning whether the Commissioners can be focused enough on the task will be relieved that these are full-time positions with no more than three members of the five-a-side line-up to be from the same political party. None can own stocks in a company that has a gaming license and wagering in casinos is completely out of the question unless it’s part of the day job. Members of the Commission will serve five-year terms after which they can apply for a second term.

The wide-ranging powers haven’t sat well with some. Kathleen Conley Norbut, a staunch critic of casino gambling, said: “We and all citizens, including legislators … should be very concerned about the sweeping powers of this new bureaucracy.

“We proposed development of a ’watchdog’ group that would monitor the establishment and growth of the industry, as well as the concentrated powers of the commission. This is something that is still needed, ‘while also believing that lawmakers’ intentionally have washed their hands of future responsibility.”

Worries stem from the vast sums of money involved in the licensing process. Whichever company picks up the can on one of the three casino gigs will pay $85m for the privilege (the slot parlor is just $25m). That’s before you factor in the annual fee and being kicked up the backside by the state if you don’t invest enough money. The casinos – one in each of the Western, Eastern and South Eastern parts of the state – will bring benefits to each area beyond the jobs and tax revenue with many cities hoping to see casino-funded infrastructure improvements. Among those rumored to be bidding are Ameristar Casinos, Las Vegas Sands, Caesars Entertainment and Mohegan Sun.

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