Scott Brown’s Pal Deemed Too Sleazy For Slots By State Commission
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided yesterday that Plainridge Racecourse’s recently-booted president Gary Piontkowski was so insanely sleazy and corrupt that the track had to be deemed ineligible for a slot machine license.
This result will be celebrated by the many Beacon Hill folks who have, over the years, described Piontkowski to me as someone who they feel dirty being in a room with. But it must be a bitter disappointment for Piontkowski’s No. 1 superfan and booster, Scott Brown.
The Plainridge facility is in Brown’s old state senate district, and over the years, the two developed a close friendship. Brown was well known to frequent the racecourse and enjoy a drink with his pal Gary. Piontkowski became a big donor and fundraiser for Brown; Brown became a hardy advocate for the racing industry—and in particular, for allowing Plainridge to fill its halls with slot machines.
In 2008, Piontkowski sold a 50 percent share in a trotter he owned to Brown’s younger daughter, Arianna, for $3,000. They co-owned the horse together, as it ran and won money, but that wasn’t seen as a potentially compromising business partnership for Brown because it’s perfectly normal for a successful businessman to go sharesies with a 16-year-old girl.
When Brown went on to become a US Senator in 2010, he demonstrated a weird fixation in his conversations with political leaders back in Massachusetts, including governor Deval Patrick and senate president Therese Murray. They would want to discuss issues of importance to the Commonwealth going on in Washington, like Republicans filibustering huge chunks of Medicaid funding. But all Brown wanted to talk about was how they should pass a gaming bill that put slot machines at Piontkowski’s track. The Globe‘s Joan Vennocchi dubbed him “Senator Slots.”
This April, as the Gaming Commission was doing its required investigation into Plainridge, Piontkowski abruptly retired as president, citing “health reasons.”
As we learned recently, the “health reasons” were that Piontkowski had been literally stuffing wads of the track’s money into his pockets for years, which is enough to make you sick. This revelation, uncovered by the Commission, came as a total surprise to Piontkowski’s business partners and fellow executives, because every time the track’s CFO had tried to tell them about it, they stuck their fingers in their ears and sang “My Old Kentucky Home” at the top of their lungs.
Once the Commission received testimony about the casual theft of well over a million dollars by the track’s president, however, the Plainridge powers leapt into action to save their chance for a slot machine license: they allowed Piontkowski to leave under a false “health reasons” pretense, without penalty or punishment and without repaying any of the money plus a full buy-out of his shares and an extra two years’ salary for his troubles. Because that’s exactly what you would expect any gambling establishment to do for somebody who stole $1.4 million out of their money room.
And they seem startled that the Commonwealth has decided that Plainridge shouldn’t be chosen as the recipient of the state’s only slots-only license.
I wonder what Scott Brown has to say about that decision. Is he sad that all his years of advocating for Plainridge to get slot machines has come a-cropper? Or does he not care, now that his buddy is no longer president and part-owner of the place?
And is Brown bothered by the fact that the guy he shared so many good times with—and accepted so much funding from—turns out to have been so sleazy?
I doubt we’ll hear much from the former US Senator on these questions. And if he is planning to run for something in 2014 (the latest scuttlebutt is that he wants to take on Ed Markey for Senate), he’s probably hoping that the media will have forgotten all about this by the time he gets around to announcing. I, for one, plan on remembering.