Gaming Chair Quits, Claims Wynn Bias Accusations Never Going Away
Stephen Crosby‘s troubles with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission are over, because his time as Chair of the Commission is over.
In fact, Crosby sent a letter to the Commission on Wednesday in which he resigned, effective immediately:
“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.”
Stephen Crosby and Encore Boston Harbor
Like many of Crosby’s issues while Chair of the Commission, his resignation surrounds the Encore Boston Harbor casino resort project currently under construction in Everett.
In fact, his resignation came just a day prior to a Sept. 27 Commission meeting in Boston. It’s expected to include a hearing on how to handle the results of an investigation into developer Wynn Resorts‘ suitability as a casino license holder.
Crosby has faced several lawsuits and accusations of bias regarding the project. Although none of it has stuck, it appears Encore Boston Harbor’s opponents are finally getting at least one thing they have long been after, with Crosby stepping down.
The Commission granted Wynn Resorts a gaming license back in the fall of 2014. By January 2015, the cities of Revere, Somerville, and Boston all filed lawsuits against the Commission in an effort to stop the project. The owners and operators of the Mohegan Sun casino resort in Connecticut also filed a lawsuit.
Commissioners chose the Wynn project over it’s $1.1 billion proposal to turn the Suffolks Down racetrack in Revere into a casino. (As a note, in Sept. 2018, the owners of the racetrack filed suit against Wynn Resorts for $1 billion claiming it fraudulently obtained its license.)
Wynn Resorts moves ahead
Wynn Resorts moved ahead regardless. It bought $35 million worth of land once used by a chemical company along the Mystic River in Everett. Then, it announced plans to build the $2.5 million Wynn Boston Harbor casino resort there.
Issues with the land deal have persisted from the beginning. Several parties filed suit. In fact, Crosby was forced to recuse himself from a review of the land deal after admitting he was in the National Guard and later business partners with one of the site’s co-owners.
That didn’t stop Caesars Entertainment, a partner once involved in the Suffolk Downs proposal, from filing a lawsuit against Crosby. The suit was later dismissed, as was a complaint against Crosby filed with the State Ethics Commission in 2015.
A 2016 groundbreaking
Site remediation began in October 2015. A month later, a judge dismissed Boston’s lawsuit against the project. In 2016, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and then-Wynn Resorts Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn signed a Surrounding Community Agreement. It’s a move that finally got Boston on board with the project.
Somerville continued its legal challenge. It moved forward with an appeal of the project’s environmental permit, thereby delaying the start of construction. However, Somerville ultimately dropped its challenge and construction began in August 2016.
In January 2018 as construction continued, the Wall Street Journal published a story detailing allegations of sexual misconduct by Steve Wynn. Wynn denied the allegations, but soon resigned as Chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts. Wynn Resorts renamed the Everett casino project Encore Boston Harbor and is continuing on towards a summer 2019 opening.
However, the Commission decided to begin its own investigation into the allegations. The main issue is whether Wynn Resorts hid a $7.5 million settlement between Wynn and an accuser from the Commission.
Accusations of prejudging
Crosby claimed heading into this week’s meeting he has twice been accused of prejudging the investigation’s outcome:
“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.”
In fact, lawyers for Mohegan Sun called for Crosby’s “immediate disqualification” from the commission’s handling of the issue.
Crosby said all past accusations of bias have proved false. Plus, he has never been guilty of favoritism, corruption, ethical violations, or prejudgment in his time with the Commission.
Recusal isn’t enough
However, Crosby said recusing himself from anything involving Encore Boston Harbor won’t stop the accusations, forcing him to walk away:
“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…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.”
Then-Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Crosby the first-ever chairman of the Commission at its inception in 2011.
Previously, Crosby served as Founding Dean of the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston. He also held the position of Secretary of Administration and Finance to Governors Paul Cellucci and Jane M. Swift from 2000 to 2002.