Baker names legal aide to head Gaming Commission

Judd-Stein to replace Stephen Crosby on Feb. 4

WITH COMPLEX DECISIONS over the future of the nearly completed casino in Everett and the possibility of casino gaming in southeastern Massachusetts looming, Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday appointed someone the lieutenant governor described as one of the administration’s “go-to people for complicated things” to chair the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Cathy Judd-Stein, who currently serves as deputy chief legal counsel in Baker’s administration, will take over as chair of the commission on Feb. 4 as the commission contends with a lawsuit that seeks to prevent the release of information uncovered during its nearly year-long investigation of sexual misconduct allegations against former Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn.

“I am very pleased that as chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission I will continue to work at the intersection of complex, important, public and private sector issues,” Judd-Stein said during a brief press conference in Baker’s office where she was introduced Tuesday afternoon. “I accept the challenge of working hard every day to try to get the job done right and as my role shifts from advisor to chair, I am honored to continue serving the public and the interests of this great Commonwealth.”

A Winchester resident, Judd-Stein has worked in the governor’s office since 2015, and previously worked as a legal advisor to former governors Paul Cellucci, Jane Swift, Mitt Romney, and Deval Patrick. She served as assistant executive director, director of policy, and special counsel at the Massachusetts Lottery and later served as former treasurer Steve Grossman’s general counsel.

“Cathy has built an impressive legal career over the last several decades providing sound guidance on complicated legal matters involving state law and public policy,” Baker said. “She is highly regarded not only here on Beacon Hill, but throughout the legal community for her expertise on a wide variety of legal issues, most notably the laws governing the ethics and conduct of public employees.”

Baker praised Judd-Stein for her “legal expertise, precision, and impeccable work ethic,” and described her as “thoughtful, diligent and [a] fair thinker” who is “not afraid to raise difficult questions along the way.” He said much of her work for his office “revolves around big complicated issues” and has included drafting education policy and analyzing court decisions.

The governor said it “goes without saying” that the Gaming Commission has “a series of critically important decisions to make and challenging projects to navigate” but said that he believes Judd-Stein is the right person to lead the commission through those decisions, which could include a decision to deem Wynn Resorts unsuitable to hold the lone Boston-area casino license, which the commission granted in 2014.

“Some of the most difficult, awkward, and complicated conversations we’ve had as an administration internally have been ones that have involved this person standing behind me,” he said, gesturing to Judd-Stein. “I think she will be the kind of person who will let the facts take her wherever they go and I assume that’s going to be the way the commission deals with this decision, but the decision is ultimately theirs.”

The Gaming Commission is fighting a lawsuit Steve Wynn filed in Nevada seeking to keep certain information — including some related to 2014 legal proceedings — out of the Gaming Commission’s investigative report. A Nevada judge has temporarily blocked Massachusetts regulators from relying on that information and the commission has pledged to keep fighting that suit.

One option the commission might consider is releasing the report without the disputed documents included. With less than six months to go before the Everett casino, called Encore, is scheduled to open, Baker was asked if the Gaming Commission should insist on seeing the full report.

“First of all, I’m not a lawyer so I guess in the end this is going to be a legal decision,” he said. “But as a policymaker, I think the answer to that is yes.”

Judd-Stein will fill a slot previously held by Stephen Crosby, who resigned from the commission in September amid accusations of bias against Wynn. [According to state comptroller records, her salary will increase from $121,325 in her current position to $170,406 as chairman of the commission.]

Since Crosby resigned, the commission has been functioning with four members. Commissioner Gayle Cameron, who previously served in a top post with the New Jersey State Police, was tapped by the other commissioners as the interim chair.

Asked whether candidates for Crosby’s former position expressed hesitancy over accepting the job because of the gravity of the decisions looming before the commission, Baker said he heard more concern about being appointed before the November election was settled. Crosby’s term is due to expire in March, and applicants apparently preferred to wait to see if Baker won a second term against Democrat Jay Gonzalez.

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“The biggest hesitancy we saw pre-dated the election because at that point in time all we were going to be doing was appointing somebody to serve out the rest of Steve Crosby’s term, which I think ends in March. Because of that, we would have been making a decision that we couldn’t guarantee we could make again until after the election,” Baker said. “So there were several people who said to us, ‘come talk to us after the election but unless you get re-elected we’re really not all that interested in it.’ Once the election was passed and the voters were kind enough to return the lieutenant governor and me to office, we saw more interest in it.”

The commission is also in the early stages of exploring whether to launch an application process for a third casino license in southeastern Massachusetts. That license was authorized but not required under a 2011 law.