Mass. Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby resigns amid charges of bias

Massachusetts

Stephen Crosby, who served as chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission since its inception and has overseen the implementation of casino gaming in the Bay State, resigned from the commission Wednesday afternoon, effective immediately.

Crosby’s departure comes as the Gaming Commission prepares to make public the findings of its investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against former casino magnate Steve Wynn and the handling of those allegations by Wynn Resorts, and amid accusations of bias against Crosby.

“Just recently, I have twice been accused of prejudging the outcome of the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau’s ongoing investigation regarding the suitability of Wynn Resorts,” Crosby wrote in an email informing Gaming Commission staff of his immediate resignation.

He said attorneys for Steve Wynn accused him of having “had already made up my mind against Steve Wynn regarding the allegations of sexual misconduct” and that Mohegan Sun had insisted that he “had already made up my mind in favor of Wynn Resorts in the suitability investigations.”

Crosby referred to lawsuits and threats of lawsuits against the Gaming Commission four years ago, when he was at the center of accusations of bias in the commission’s process that resulted in Wynn Resorts securing the Boston area casino license. He said he expects the commission’s objectivity will be challenged, even if he were to recuse himself from the Wynn deliberations but remain on the commission.

“I simply cannot let my involvement in these critical deliberations be used by others to hamper the Commission’s ability to do its work, or to undermine the confidence of the public in that work,” he wrote in the letter, which was sent to staff after 5 p.m. Wednesday. “There has never been a shred of truth or accuracy to any charge of bias, favoritism, corrupt practice, ethics violations, or prejudgment in my execution of this job.”

Crosby had previously served as secretary of administration and finance, as chief of staff to Acting Gov. Jane Swift and as dean of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston. Gov. Deval Patrick tapped him as chair of the Gaming Commission in December 2011.

“With a profound sense of sadness, regret — and yes, frustration — I am resigning as Chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, in order to give you the best possible opportunity to do your work without distraction,” Crosby wrote. “And I leave the leadership of this organization in the very capable hands of your four Commissioners.”

A spokeswoman for the Gaming Commission said the commission meeting scheduled for Thursday morning will take place as planned. The commission is expected to discuss what comes next in its re-evaluation of Wynn’s suitability to hold a casino license.

The commission since January has been reevaluating the circumstances surrounding its 2014 decision to award Wynn Resorts a casino license. Previously, the head of the commission’s investigations bureau confirmed that Steve Wynn paid a private $7.5 million settlement to a manicurist to resolve a sexual harassment allegation that was not disclosed when Wynn Resorts sought and eventually received a casino license in Massachusetts.


Below is an internal message to MGC Commissioners and Staff from Crosby, as posted on the Mass. Gaming Commission’s website

Just recently, I have twice been accused of prejudging the outcome of the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau’s ongoing investigation regarding the suitability of Wynn Resorts.

On September 17, 2018, I received a letter from a lawyer for Steve Wynn insisting that I had already made up my mind against Steve Wynn regarding the allegations of sexual misconduct. On September 25, 2018, our counsel received a letter from counsel to Mohegan Sun, which has sued the Commission over the award of the Region A license to Wynn, insisting that I had already made up my mind in favor of Wynn Resorts in the suitability investigations.

Simultaneously, Suffolk Downs filed a $3 billion lawsuit against Wynn Resorts, in which pages of accusations regurgitated false claims of bias made against me in the past.

Sadly, we’ve been here before. It was about four years ago that the Gaming Commission was battered by lawsuits and accusations of bias in the matter of the Region A licensing process. I was often at the center of these lawsuits and accusations.  As the Commissioners now prepare to receive and deliberate on the IEB investigation of the suitability of Wynn Resorts to hold the Region A license, the lawsuits, threats of lawsuits and false allegations have begun anew.

Based on our experience, I have reason to expect that the Commission’s objectivity—even if I recuse myself from the current proceedings—will be challenged.

Four years ago, I made a statement that is equally true today: “I have said repeatedly over my years as Chair that the single highest priority for our work is that we protect the integrity of the decision-making process.  And I’ve said repeatedly that the appearance of integrity as well as the reality of integrity is critical.”

I simply cannot let my involvement in these critical deliberations be used by others to hamper the Commission’s ability to do its work, or to undermine the confidence of the public in that work.

There has never been a shred of truth or accuracy to any charge of bias, favoritism, corrupt practice, ethics violations, or prejudgment in my execution of this job. I established our core value that our work must be “participatory, transparent and fair.” I live that core value, as you do.

We have done extraordinary work at the Gaming Commission, under the most daunting of circumstances. We have launched a mixed-use development project in Springfield, anchored by the casino, that has the potential to dramatically regenerate the economy of that rising post-industrial city. We built a casino in Plainville that has repatriated tens of millions of dollars of out-of-state spending, and employed nearly 150 unemployed or underemployed residents. Our research agenda is unprecedented globally, and will provide a comprehensive picture of all of the social and economic consequences—good or bad—of the introduction of casinos. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion, internally and with our licensees, has surpassed all previous standards of a diverse casino construction workforce, has created hundreds of millions of dollars for women, minority and veteran-owned businesses—and has been central to a statewide initiative to provide women opportunities in the construction trades.

Our partnership with the Department of Public Health to design and implement the most creative and effective programs to prevent, ameliorate and treat problem gaming is the only partnership of its kind in the United States. Our own responsible gaming strategies inside the casino—GameSense, PlayMyWay, and engaged Voluntary Self-Exclusion—have made Massachusetts the envy of responsible gaming activists around the world.

That is your work, and it has been phenomenal. It is also demanding, exhausting, intensely scrutinized, and at times challenged by people of both good will and ill will. I cannot let my role here make it all the harder for you to do your work.

With a profound sense of sadness, regret—and yes, frustration—I am resigning as Chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, in order to give you the best possible opportunity to do your work without distraction. And I leave the leadership of this organization in the very capable hands of your four Commissioners.

I am deeply proud of the work we have done together—and I know you will continue your remarkable innovative work on behalf of the people of Massachusetts.

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