Mass. Gaming Commissioner Stephen Crosby joined Boston Public Radio on Thursday for "Ask the Commissioner." Crosby talked about the sale of MBTA land to Wynn Resorts, and offered an update on the statewide casino process.
Questions are paraphrased and Crosby's responses are edited where noted [...].
There are a lot of different casino plans in the works in Massachusetts. Where are we at with those?
There are three licenses already awarded. The first is to the slots parlor [in Plainridge]. That facility will open in under 65 days on June 24th. [...] Then we licensed the MGM Springfield casino. That facility broke ground this month, they are scheduled to open in mid-2017. That's an $800 million project. Then there is the Wynn Everett casino in Eastern Mass., which is $1.6 billion, and that was scheduled for the Fall of 2017, but with [environmental issues] it could be a little later.
Why the difference in price tags between casinos?
A lot of it is finishes. I don't know exactly. The facility in Everett requires a huge amount of remediation of the land. It's the old Monsanto chemical plant. The first thing they have to do is dig out all the soil, cap the land, clean up the Mystic River, clean up the watershed. There are some complications there.
Wynn Resorts recently purchased 1.75 acres of land in Everett from the MBTA. Gov. Baker said the move circumvented a legal obligation for the state to review the sale. Now, the state is holding up a license that Wynn Resorts needs to go forward. Could this sink the whole bid?
I don't think so. The MEPA problem — the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Action — is a very important action. It's the most important part of our regulatory process, it's a big deal. The MBTA, meaning the Department of Transportation, made a mistake and did not comply with MEPA. [...] They have apologized to the Secretary of the Environment, and to the MEPA folks. They have come up with a remediation strategy which is to put the land in escrow until the deal is ultimately consummated, if and when it is. So the MBTA land is not a deal-breaker.
Gov. Charlie Baker has said he only wants to try having only one casino in the state. Does he have an ulterior motive here, trying to sink this bid so Everett doesn't get a casino?
I would say no. If you read the letter from the Secretary it's actually quite supportive. [...] It said these are solvable issues, it directed the parties to get to work and resolve them. [...] There was nothing that suggested there was an ulterior motive there.
There is still an outstanding casino license for southeastern Massachusetts. Is there a possibility we may not award it? There are casinos in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Atlantic City. Should we be more cautious?
We got criticized two years ago because New Hampshire was going to eat our lunch. Well, gaming is not legal in New Hampshire yet, so nothing on the ground has changed.
There is no good solution to this issue. There's nothing to wait for. [...] Will Connecticut have other casinos? Who knows. We got criticized two years ago because New Hampshire was going to eat our lunch. Well, it's not legal in New Hampshire yet, so nothing on the ground has changed. We took stock. The Attorney General did express some issues — should we take a look here? And we did. We called our consultants back in and we said, Has anything changed from where we were before? Economically, on tribal status — and the answer on each question was no.
But does it hurt to delay opening a southeastern Mass. casino so we can see how the others do?
There is nobody out there that has a rational economic argument that says we can't sustain another casino. All the economic arguments are to the contrary, and the law presumes that we will have one if we get a quality proposal that does do — for revenue, jobs, economic development, mitigation, problem gambling and so forth — all of the things that the laws require. [...] We don't think it's fair to the people of southeastern Mass. who want this to simply wait on our hands while something ethereal happens.
>> To hear the entire interview with Mass. Gaming Commissioner Stephen Crosby, click the audio above.