Gaming Commission vows no ties

Consensus called key to avoiding impasse

Left with an even number of members for Greater Boston issues, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided on Thursday to pursue a multi-step, consensus-building plan to avoid a tie vote on the awarding of a casino license.

The five-member commission is down its chairman, Stephen Crosby, after he recused himself from voting on Greater Boston matters. Crosby made the decision to recuse himself after attending the opening day of the racing season at Suffolk Downs, which is partnering with Mohegan Sun, one of the two applicants vying for a casino license in the region. The other applicant is Wynn Resorts.

The aim of the consensus-building plan, as outlined by Catherine Blue, the commission’s general counsel, is to facilitate extensive discussions between the commissioners on the Mohegan Sun and Wynn casino license applications before any vote occurs. Blue suggested that before the commissioners deliberate on each of the nine factors used to judge an applicant’s suitability, they will agree on a set of general ground rules to guide their discussions.

James McHugh, who is acting as commission chair in Crosby’s absence, said the format outlined by Blue is designed to create consensus at each point along the way, putting aside contentious issues if necessary and revisiting them later.

McHugh expressed confidence that the plan would avoid a 2-2 impasse. “The likelihood is nonexistent after going through those tools and still be tied,” he said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

If there are questions about an application, the commissioners said they would ask staff to research specific issues or request further information from applicants. The gaming companies could then produce new ideas or amendments to their plans.

In the event of an impasse, the commission could request a final “best offer” from an applicant who could address any concerns or complaints about a proposal, according to Blue. McHugh said that it would be difficult to precisely predict how the applicants would go about “improving” their offers to deal with any objections.

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Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

“You could say to both applicants, ‘Here are a couple of areas in which you’ve heard about deficiencies, go out and fix those deficiencies and come back and tell us what the fix is,’” McHugh  said. “Or you could say, ‘Look, everybody is all over the lot on this; go out and come back with what you think will remedy what you’ve heard.’ ”

McHugh, a retired judge, said the commission has had very few deadlocks in its two years of its existence. However, the commission’s vote on the slots license, which ultimately went to Penn National Gaming for its Plainridge Racecourse plan in Plainville, was a close 3-2.