CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - 22News I-Team reporter Ryan Walsh talks with Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Stephen Crosby.
When is the absolute deadline for a developer to be locked in with a town or city?
"There is no date deadline, we haven't set any date deadline. They have to do the host community agreement, the referendum 60-90 days after they get the go ahead from us. I would expect a month or two after that we would at some point put out a deadline, but we don't want to give an artificial deadline. We don't want to force people to rush if they are trying to negotiate a better deal or try to make it a better deal or deal with a transportation problem or some other type of community mitigation problem. So as a practical matter, it's going to be the end of the summer, early fall, but we haven't set a specific date."
In Springfield, if they choose to have a host agreement and move forward with just one company – say in June, which they have been talking about. Would that other company still be able to say we've invested in Western Mass, we've paid our $400,000, but we're going to move to another city another site, would that be possible?
"We have not dealt with that specific case and that is something the commission would have to decide on formally. It may well be possible in theory. Whether, as a practical matter, they could get together that quickly is another matter. Theoretically someone could be having a backup position right now, could have someone looking at other sites. Chicopee's been talking about they'd like to get in the game. It's possible."
Does the developer have to inform of those intentions?
"There's no obligation to tell us, as a practical matter they have to talk to the city because they have a whole host of regulations they have to follow. Zoning regulations they have to follow, traffic tests they have to do. It would be pretty hard to do that on the QT, but we don't require them to tell us, but we'll know just as a practical matter."
Can someone have a financial interest in two casinos bidding for the Western Massachusetts license?
Talking about the pending lawsuit between the group of Palmer investors and Peter Picknelly. Is it still a hands-off approach to let them settle at this point, or at what point does the MGC potentially have to step in?
"The lawsuit has nothing to do with us. That takes its own direction. Any issues that get raised in a lawsuit like that whether it's with this team of bidders or any other team of bidders, lots of companies have lawsuits going on. We will of course look into those."
One of the buzz words that's been going around is hidden investors. How do you track them down and how do you do your research on them?
"I'm not a forensic accountant or an FBI agent so I can't give you the details. They have to tell us every place that their money is coming from. Each person who is putting in money we have to know who their business associates are and where their money is coming from. When you start to check, that's what FBI agents and FBI forensic accounts do is track down the source of these monies."
Is that who will be doing the investigations?
"Yes, we have a team together of both consultants and people on our staff who are State Police, former FBI agents. We work with the FBI and with the Secret Service, all the other law enforcement agencies in the state. We have investigation powers that are second to none."
So MGM with its connections overseas that would be looked into, Peter Picknelly with his Opel Real estate ventures and his gun company would be investigated? All of the above?
"Those are the kinds of things for every investor they would be looked at? We have a team in Asia that will be looking overseas, Some of our companies, some of our bidders, not just MGM, do business overseas and we will be checking into those business relationships as well."
How far along are you in that?
"It depends, but on average it takes about 6 months. It's a complicated process. The first step we have to do is go through hundreds of pages to make sure that everything has been filled out right, but we are underway in almost every case. The investigations are actually underway now for almost all of these guys."
How deep are these investigators going to be digging?
"Very deep. We went over the background check forms, it's pretty much a standard form for individuals and a second form for businesses that are used throughout the industry. It is very deep. It goes into what kind of scars and birthmarks do you have on your body? That's one way you can tell a person is who they say they are. That level of detail, all of your financial records, who you do business with, what your assets are, where your assets are invested, on and on. But we go very, very deep. Enough to assure to a certainty that the persons doing business in Massachusetts are above reproach. "A" personally and "B" totally financially
In Springfield, MGM is a public company with a few local investors. With Penn National there's Peter Picknelly a local businessman who is a 50/50 partner. What is the difference of what you'll be looking at, known investors vs. a partner?
"Known investors vs. a partner, not much. We have an obligation in our statue that anyone that has a 5% interest gets a background check. Whether you're 5% or 50% you get the same kind of background check."
If you get a feel that someone may not be found suitable, would the developer be made aware of that so they can make alternate plans.
"Yes, that happens frequently, for whatever reason a team member is not suitable, they would switch that person out. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with that person, but for some kind of substantive reason, we're not going to consider him suitable, they could be switched out for someone else, that happens a lot."
Do you think it's in the cities (Springfield's) best interests to put forward two or just one (proposal), is there any detriment to doing two?
"I don't have an opinion on that. I have been clear it is up the cities to come up with their own process to see what is the best strategic approach for them."
Can a referendum be held on the date of the Special Election? Is there a conflict with that?
"I don't see a conflict with that, as long it falls within the other parameters are. As long as the run up has been the right amount of time and the investor has been found suitable by us."
Will the connection between the mayor and some of the individuals in this be investigated? Because the mayor does have so much power as well as the people in the community as far as which company can move forward with them.
"I don't think we will single out any mayor or mayors as categories. We're looking into the companies, we're not investigating cities and towns, we're not investigating public officials, we're investigating the bidders. We look at who the bidders do business with in every license and we will be talking to the FBI and the State Police and the quality of their business practices for every bidder across the country. But we're not in the business of investigating any public officials."
How will the MGC ultimately decide?
"I don't know exactly, we haven't dealt with that and we haven't deal with the situation where there is two from one community. For the most part, everything every bid will be looked at on its own merits. It won't be an issue of where you come from whether you're rural or urban whether you're from the same city, each of them will be looked at on their own merits. I don't see a winnowing process. We'll look at each one on its own merits and decide which among those is the best."