Mass. Gaming Commissioners Circle Wagons Around Their Chairman

As Steve Crosby faces scrutiny from state ethics officials his fellow commissioners come to his defense.

Steve Crosby

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Steve Crosby

Steve Crosby’s fellow gaming commissioners are circling the wagons around him.

At the start of Thursday’s public meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, two of the commission’s five members jumped to defend their chairman as questions swirl about an investigation by the State Ethics Commission into the details around his recusal from the casino licensing process for eastern Massachusetts.

James McHugh, the gaming commissioner who acted as interim chairman in Crosby’s absence during the Region A licensing process, defended Crosby and the process that resulted in Wynn Resorts receiving the lone eastern Massachusetts casino license.

“At no time after he recused himself on May 8 did Chairman Steve Crosby offer to me publicly or privately any suggestion or hint or opinion whatsoever of how the Region A licensing decision should be resolved,” said McHugh.

The former state judge repeated his remarks about McHugh’s recusal for emphasis before moving on to tout the commission’s work.  McHugh said he was “proud of the process” for Region A.

“Our work in Region A was extremely difficult as I think any careful observer would recognized. The deal was more complicated or difficult than any procedure I’ve ever been involved in,” said McHugh

The State Ethics Commission’s investigation into Crosby’s conduct was first reported in the Boston Globe on Tuesday. The ethics board is investigating whether Crosby properly recused himself from the decision making process after it was revealed that he had ties to the owner of the land in Everett where the proposed $1.6 billion Wynn casino is slated to rise from. Crosby said he recused himself but according to a sworn statement from an unidentified person submitted to the commission he continued to meddle ion the process.

Fellow Commissioner Enrique Zuniga joined McHugh in his defense of the commission and Crosby.

“I think anybody that has doubts about the process ought to look at the record because it is all on the record. There is hours and hours and hours of how we arrived at the decision. There’s a transcript of everything that everybody said. The record in its entirety tells us the story,” said Zuniga.

The other two commissioners present, Gayle Cameron and Bruce Stebbins, did not comment on the situation but did not their heads in agreement as the remarks were made.

Crosby defended his actions to reporters at the meeting and said that he properly disclosed the relationship with Paul Lohnes, the landowner.

“I had nothing to do with the decision-making on the license,” said Crosby.

Wynn Resorts received the lone eastern Massachusetts casino license in Septemer 2014 after a 3-1 vote by the commission. McHugh voted for the Mohegan Sun proposal at Suffolk Downs while the other three voted for Wynn’s Everett project. Revere, Boston, and Somerville are currently suing the commission over the Region A licensing process.