Gaming Commission challenge fails
A federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Caesars Entertainment against Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby. The ruling uses language that could spell trouble for other lawsuits filed against the commission by Boston, Somerville, Revere, and Mohegan Sun.
Caesars filed its lawsuit against Crosby and Karen Wells, the head of the Gaming Commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau, after the IEB issued a report questioning the suitability of Caesar’s to hold a casino license. Caesars at the time was partnering on an East Boston casino bid with the owners of Suffolk Downs. The damaging report prompted the horse track’s owners to dump Caesars and team up with Mohegan Sun.
The Gaming Commission report raised concerns about the shaky finances of Caesars and its business dealings with three individuals with unsavory backgrounds, including one with ties to Russian organized crime.
Caesars alleged in its lawsuit that Crosby was biased against the company because he wanted the eastern Massachusetts casino license to go to Wynn Resorts. Wynn wanted to build its casino in Everett, on land in which a former business partner of Crosby’s held a stake. Crosby later recused himself from all involvement in the awarding of the eastern Massachusetts casino license.
For example, Souter said the gaming statute “invests the Commission with an apparently unlimited scope for discretionary judgment,” which is another way of saying the Commission can do pretty much whatever it wants.That’s bad news for Boston, Somerville, and Revere, which are all alleging that the Gaming Commission showed bias and did not follow proper procedures in awarding a casino license to Wynn.
Souter also cited the statute itself, which says “the Commission shall have full discretion as to whether to issue a license. Applicants shall have no legal right or privilege to a gaming license and shall not be entitled to any further review if denied by the Commission.” That language would appear to be bad news for Mohegan Sun, which filed its lawsuit after losing out to Wynn in its bid for the eastern Massachusetts casino license.
Most of the media coverage of the Gaming Commission’s report on Caesars focused on the alleged links to Russian organized crime. Concern about the company’s shaky finances received far less attention, but in retrospect perhaps that section of the report should have received more. As Souter noted in a footnote to his ruling, the largest unit of Caesars, once the largest casino company in the world, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month while struggling under a debt load of $18 billion.
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