Game On! Clash of the Casino Titans
So who makes the big decision? It’s the five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which will have wide latitude to set standards for the gaming license bids and then choose the winners.
1. Governor Patrick tapped Stephen Crosby to serve as chair of the commission. The other four members have yet to be named. A longtime political hand who’s served in both Republican and Democratic administrations in Massachusetts, Crosby’s worked most recently as dean of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston. His selection was mostly praised, though he ruffled feathers last month by speaking (for no fee) at a forum on casinos sponsored by a Wynn lobbyist.
2. One of the commissioners must have experience in criminal investigation and law enforcement. This member will be selected by Attorney General Martha Coakley.
3. One must have experience in corporate finance and securities. This member will be picked by Treasurer Steve Grossman.
4. One must have experience with the legal and policy issues related to gaming. This member will be chosen collectively by the governor, the AG, and the treasurer.
5. One must have experience with regulation of or management in the casino industry. This member will be chosen collectively by the governor, the AG, and the treasurer.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo are two of the most powerful people in the state, and both desperately want to see a casino built at Suffolk Downs. Yet they now find themselves in a strange position: virtually powerless. Menino started talking about gaming at Suffolk Downs in the ’90s, and has lately stepped up his rhetoric. The jobs-and-revenue-hungry (and parochial) mayor noted recently that, down Route 1, “What you have is Mr. Wynn flying in, who hasn’t been in Foxboro ever before.” DeLeo has kept his statements more low-key since ramming the casino bill through the legislature. The speaker, though, is a longtime proponent of expanded gaming at Suffolk Downs, which is in his district (his father worked at the track). But since the gaming commission is appointed by the governor, the treasurer, and the attorney general, there’s not much Menino or DeLeo can do. Worse, Governor Patrick and Treasurer Steve Grossman both have close ties to Kraft. Suffolk Downs may still well get a casino, but from here on out, it won’t be because of any strings pulled by Hizzona or the speaker.
The Wild Cards
Sheldon Adelson: Right now, Adelson is the elephant not in the room. The Dorchester native is not only one of the richest people on earth (number 16 by Forbes’s count), but also the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, one of the world’s biggest gaming companies. While he’s yet to declare an interest in Massachusetts (Sands is, at present, making big plays in Asia and Miami), Adelson is known to harbor a burning hatred for Wynn, so don’t be surprised if he pops up with a plan, if only to keep his old enemy from profiting on his home turf.
David Nunes: You might not have heard much about him, but there’s a third bidder playing in the Boston area, and he hopes to steal the prize away from Kraft and Suffolk Downs. That’s developer David Nunes, who’s looking to bring gambling to Milford. He’s partnered with Bill Warner, owner of Warner Gaming, which operates five casinos (including the Hard Rock in Las Vegas). The biggest selling point for Nunes and his Crossroads Massachusetts LLC is location — near the intersection of I-495 and the Mass. Pike. The Colorado resident, however, isn’t as locally wired as his competitors.