Panel: Delay Springfield casino process

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — A Massachusetts Gaming Panel asked Springfield to suspend their search for a casino operator for one week Tuesday.  They’re concerned that a conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of one, could shake up public confidence in the casino search process.

“We will ask them today to postpone the launch of their RFP("Request for Proposals") until we have a chance to talk,” said Mass Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby.  “We do feel like there are some concerns but we don’t know enough about it to come to any conclusions until we meet with them.”

“We’re interested to see what their process is, again I don’t think anybody foresaw four competing projects in Springfield,” said Mass Gaming Commissioner Bruce Stebbins.

The issue is that Shefsky and Froelich, a consulting firm hired to advise Springfield on four competing gaming proposals, is also a registered lobbyist in Illinois for MGM Resorts International and Penn National Gaming – two casino operators seeking bids in Springfield.

The consulting firm says the lawyers advising those casinos in other states will not be the ones working in Springfield.  Legal expert Pam Wilmot of Common Cause Massachusetts says if they keep that “firewall” there shouldn’t be any legal issues, but there could be an appearance issue.

“Well I think it’s clear there is an appearance of conflict of interest,” said Wilmot. “But appearances can be corrected under the law through full disclosure...  They have to do a good job of explaining this to the public.”

The Gaming Commission expects to speak with Springfield officials during their weekly meeting next Tuesday in Boston.

The State Ethics Commission is responsible for investigating and sanctioning any conflicts of interest among public workers.  But the Gaming Commission will ultimately decide whether or not to issue a casino license in up to three regions in the Commonwealth.  

Copyright 2014 WWLP TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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