The Massachusetts casino licensing process has been fraught with lawsuits, accusations and campaigns for and against every proposed project, making it one of the most contentious gaming expansions seen anywhere in the United States.
The controversies over allowing casinos in the state have seemed to come at every level, and even the state’s gaming commission isn’t immune from questions about the process.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby is under investigation by the State Ethics Commission over allegations that he may have had a conflict of interest when reviewing the Wynn Resorts proposal to build a resort in Everett.
The issue is that the Everett resort was being built on land that was owned by an old friend of Crosby’s, Paul Lohnes.
Sworn Statement Prompted Investigation
Reportedly, the ethics commission launched the inquiry after receiving a sworn statement suggesting that Crosby “actively participated” in the state gaming commission’s work on evaluating the Everett bid even after he had officially recused himself from being a part of the process to award the Greater Boston casino license.
“Crosby actively participated in the commission’s activities related to the award after claiming to have recused himself,” the statement read. “I believe his actions violated several sections of the state conflict-of-interest law.”
At this point, the identity of the person who wrote the statement is unclear.
However, the Boston Globe reported that the author of the statement did offer to meet with the State Ethics Commission to talk about details of the allegations, and that they believed Crosby’s actions could be enough to rescind the casino license that was awarded to Wynn Resorts last year.
While a spokesperson for the Ethics Commission did not confirm that there was any investigation into Crosby’s activities, Crosby himself acknowledged that he was the subject of an ethics probe.
“I have rigorously adhered to all regulations and guidance provided to be by the State Ethics Commission over the last three years,” Crosby said in a statement. “I am fully cooperating with what I understand to be a preliminary inquiry and I look forward to an expedient resolution of that inquiry.”
Gaming Commission Also Facing Lawsuit
The ethics investigation is likely to tread over much of the same territory as the lawsuit against the Gaming Commission filed by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.
That suit suggests that the commission violated the state’s casino law on numerous occasions in order to ensure that the Wynn would win the Boston-area casino license over a rival proposal in Revere.
Crosby’s potential conflict of interest became a hot topic in 2013. That August, Crosby revealed his friendship with Lohnes when state police were investigating whether Lohnes had secret partners that shared ownership of his land, and whether those partners might have criminal records.
After Crosby disclosed that relationship, the Ethics Commission said that Crosby could continue to vote on matters related to the license and the Everett proposal.
However, Crosby sat out of a December 2013 debate over whether the land could still be used for the Wynn project.
In May 2014, Crosby recused himself from all deliberations over the license after it was reported that he had attended a Kentucky Derby party at Suffolk Downs, the home of the proposed Revere casino.