Massachusetts Gaming Commission drops proposed rule prohibiting elected host community officials from putting down a bet
State House News Service By
on May 28, 2015 at 8:51 PM
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BOSTON — State gambling regulators on Thursday voted to abandon a proposed rule prohibiting municipal elected officials in a community hosting a gaming facility from placing a wager.
Members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, however, appeared open to revisiting the topic and said they were interested in exploring restrictions on elected officials receiving free play, credit, or comps, such as a free meal or drink, at a gambling facility.
Commissioner James McHugh said cities and towns are "perfectly capable" of handling the matter of whether an elected official should be allowed to place a wager in their casino or slot parlor. "They understand a lot more, they're a lot closer to the ground," he said.
Commissioner McHugh nodded agreement to Frank Fahrenkopf's propaganda.
A curious sight!
But Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, a former Springfield city councilor who was the lone vote against deleting the proposed regulation, said the rule would help the commission, casino licensees and local officials avoid potential "headaches."
"I'm in favor of keeping this in there as kind of just a preventative and protective measure for all of us involved," Stebbins said.
The provision, which would have allowed elected officials to be present in a gambling facility, was originally included as part of proposed regulations laying out who could be excluded from a gambling establishment.
After voting 4-1 to drop the provision, commissioners approved the rest of the regulations.
"There's so many other rules. There's laws, there's ethics commission rules, there's local rules, so if we're going to do anything we want to be sure we fit in with everything else that's already going on, with the topic," Gaming Commission chair Stephen Crosby said after the vote.
"I'm uncomfortable sort of intimating that maybe we're suspicious that municipal officials might be doing something," he added.
Todd Grossman, the commission's deputy general counsel, said he could not find other instances of such a rule elsewhere in the United States.
Grossman acknowledged the potential perception issues that could arise if wagering local elected officials, such as a mayor or a selectman, were to hit a jackpot and "what the general public may think about that."
Offering his personal opinion to the commission, Grossman said the issue could be left up to each host community to determine.
The town moderator of Plainville, Luke Travis, had criticized the wagering rule when it was first proposed, telling the commission it appeared to be a violation of constitutional rights.
If Luke Travis is an attorney, competent and qualified to comment on constitutional law, his name is not listed on the BBO Registration.
It does seem that Mr. Travis might be unaware of existing Ethics Statutes that already restrict the conduct of public officials.
The debate over who is allowed to wager, and who should be excluded, comes as Massachusetts nears the opening of its first gambling facility. A slots parlor in Plainville, near the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border, is scheduled to open June 24.
A 2011 law allows for the slot parlor and up to three resort casinos.
The Massachusetts state Lottery has been in place since 1972, set up to send local aid to cities and towns.
According to the state Lottery, the state statute prohibits any member or employee of the Lottery Commission, or their spouse, child, brother, sister, or parent residing as a member of their household from purchasing a ticket or receiving a prize.
The regulations approved by the commission on Thursday call for the five-member panel to maintain a list of people who should be "excluded or ejected" from a gaming establishment.
A person could be placed on the list if they have been convicted of a criminal offense punishable by more than six months of incarceration, a "crime of moral turpitude or a violation of the gaming laws of any state."
A person with a "notorious or unsavory reputation which would adversely affect public confidence and trust that the gaming industry is free from criminal or corruptive elements" could also be placed on the list.