Top Gaming Commish Steps out after Derby Questions

And then there were four.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission was supposed to be eliminating applicants, not one another.

However, in a completely unexpected turn of events, that is exactly what happened as Mass Gaming Commission (MGC) Chair Stephen Crosby recused himself from the entire Greater Boston casino licensing process – that coming after several months of questions from the public about his impartiality in regard to the Wynn project land owners and photos and accounts of Crosby attending the Suffolk Downs Kentucky Derby VIP Party on May 3.

During a meeting last week, Crosby announced rather shockingly that he would no longer participate in any of the deliberations, discussions or decisions in the Greater Boston licensing process. Crosby had been a part of that process and had led that process for more than two years until last week’s news.

He will continue to be involved in the other regions of the state and in the State Racing Commission. He did not resign from the MGC.

“I have also said repeatedly that the appearance of integrity, as well as the reality of integrity, is critical,” he said. “Over the past several months, my behavior and judgment concerning the parties to the Region A decision has been questioned, sometimes in good faith, sometimes in bad faith. Frankly, neither I nor any of the Commissioners have any doubt about my ability to be impartial in the decision making process. But the compounding of these issues has now gotten to the point where my participation in the decision making process has become a distraction and a potential threat to our critical appearance of total impartiality.”

That announcement came apparently after the straw had broken the camel’s back on a report in the Boston Globe and photos made public in the Journal of Crosby attending a VIP party at Suffolk Downs’s Kentucky Derby Party.

However, that wasn’t the first problem that has surfaced.

Last year, Crosby disclosed that he had a previous business relationship with Paul Lohnes, a principal partner in the group that owns the property that Wynn Resorts is looking to put a casino upon.

He also disclosed at the same time that he was a close friend and former Harvard University college roommate of Suffolk Downs principal owner Joe O’Donnell.

Crosby was clear that he has not violated any rules or laws, but felt the questions surrounding his conduct were a distraction from the task at hand.

“I will not allow anything to distract or discredit that comprehensive effort,” he said. “Therefore, I have decided to recuse myself from any further involvement in any of the issues concerning the licensing decision for Region A.”

Oddly enough, it was a small win for Boston on a day when it took a hit in its bid to become a host city for either Wynn (Everett) or Mohegan Sun (Revere).

Boston had called for Crosby to recuse himself in a letter submitted last month to the MGC as part of a side process to determine if Boston could qualify as a host community. It was, in fact, the initial request in Boston’s letter.

However, they weren’t so lucky in the more important request – that being to become a host community (see accompanying story).

The MGC will meeting Thursday, May 15, to deliberate on how it will go forward in Greater Boston with a panel of four rather than five.

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