Massachusetts Gaming Commission Postpones Third Resort Casino Verdict

Posted on: January 25, 2019, 06:00h. 

Last updated on: May 8, 2019, 11:28h.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) says it won’t decide on whether to approve a third integrated casino resort in the southeastern part of the state until appointed Chair Cathy Judd-Stein assumes her role and has adequate time to familiarize herself with the situation.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission Encore Boston
Along with reaching a decision on the state’s final remaining casino license, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will soon conclude if Wynn Resorts will be permitted to operate Encore Boston Harbor. (Image: Steven Senne/AP)

MGC Executive Director Edward Bedrosian said at Thursday’s meeting that the state agency is suspending such considerations for the time being. Governor Charlie Baker (R) named Judd-Stein to head the MGC earlier this month. She will officially step into the position on February 4.

We had previously talked about bringing this back up in front of the commission in January … but change in circumstance is the appointment of a new chair, and it seems appropriate that we wait until the new chair is in place so the new commission in total can address this,” Bedrosian said Thursday.

MGC Interim Chair Gayle Cameron, who took over the agency after Stephen Crosby’s resignation in September, agreed.

“Any decision we make should include our new chairwoman, and giving her a little time to understand all the issues and read all the comments is certainly appropriate,” Cameron concluded.

C-Section

Massachusetts’ Expanded Gaming Act of 2011 authorized three resort casinos in designated regions of the state. It also authorized a slots-only facility, which is Plainridge Park.

The under-construction Encore Boston Harbor has the Region A license. MGM Springfield, which opened in August 2018, is Region B. The third and final area – Region C – encompasses the southeastern counties of Bristol, Plymouth, Nantucket, Dukes, and Barnstable.

The MGC has held off on approving a casino resort in Region C on saturation concerns posed by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. The Native American group has been trying to build a $1 billion casino resort in Taunton for several years.  

The US Department of the Interior (DOI) said in September that it erred in taking 321 acres of land into trust and declaring it as sovereign land.

Taking Land Into Trust

The process of “taking land into trust” is when the federal government approves non-tribal land as Indian territory. Once completed, sovereign acres are partially removed from state oversight, and certain forms of gaming are legal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The DOI’s verdict last fall has seemingly ended the Mashpee’s odds of building its casino resort.

Rush Street Gaming, which in 2015 proposed a $677 million casino resort at the Brockton Fairgrounds, urged the MGC to reconsider the Region C license last summer.

Future Decision

Judd-Stein will have her hands full when she takes over the MGC next month. Along with deciding if a Region C casino should be permitted, the five-member panel will make the most important ruling in the history of the state’s gaming industry when it determines if Wynn Resorts is still suitable for licensure.

The MGC’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau is expected to soon give the Commission its findings on whether Wynn executives knew of their founder’s alleged sexual misconduct during the company’s bidding in 2014.