Sept. 3, 2013
Dear Governor Patrick,
As you are well aware, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is moving ahead rapidly to implement the expanded gaming law signed by you in 2011. As a community that is potentially highly impacted by this law, yet completely disenfranchised from the process, the Town of Hopkinton has severe concerns about the pace, process and focus of the MGC. We, therefore, ask that you take immediate steps to change the leadership and activities of the Commission in order to ensure that the new law does not damage communities and entire regions of the Commonwealth in pursuit of revenue, and that the high expectations for a fair, transparent and rational process are fulfilled.
Though the MGC claims to be undertaking a thoughtful process, its actions suggest a single-minded focus on generating revenue as quickly as possible and a troubling mindset that the ends justify the means. Many of the steps taken by the MGC seem to be in direct opposition to the intent, if not the wording, of its charter and threaten to undermine its legitimacy. Permitting these actions can only continue to corrode the faith of citizens in good government and fairness of process. Just some examples of the many flaws and failures of the Commission include:
- The MGC made a decision early in its process to exclude surrounding communities from having any role in the site selection process, despite the obvious fact that many of those communities will be severely impacted by a casino in their vicinity. The rationale for this decision was that the expanded gaming law did not specifically provide those communities with a role, ignoring the fact that it also did not deny them one. We are stunned that the concerns of communities, and even entire regions, of the state can be simply ignored because of the whims of any selected host community. The mitigation plans developed by the MGC to supposedly address this disenfranchisement are absurdly inadequate and consign impacted communities to suffering irreparable damage for the perceived greater good of the Commonwealth.
- The MGC has consistently ignored, skirted or otherwise manipulated public records law in order to deny interested parties any real opportunity to review critical information on the applicants and the plans. Information repeated requested by our Town has simply not been provided or has been issued in such a highly redacted form as to be useless.
- The MGC has failed to meet its own deadlines for certain activities, yet has not adjusted the overall process timing as a result. As an example, background checks on all the applicant groups were supposed to be completed in advance of potential host communities voting on those proposals, yet it seems unlikely that will be the case for any of the applicants. We were recently advised that the background checks on the Foxwoods group will not be completed until November, but the host community vote is schedule for October. The obvious conclusion is that the MGC simply does not want voters to be fully informed regarding their proposed partners.
- The MGC continues to game virtually every public interaction in order to minimize the opportunity for concerned citizens to have a role. Public hearings are tightly controlled events that typically permit no real public input. We attended a "public hearing" in Holliston earlier this year that, to our utter disbelief, was not even announced to the press - clearly in order to minimize the potential for real public awareness. The background investigation reports, which are expected to be hundreds of pages long, are only to be released on the morning that suitability hearings are held, preventing any real review or thoughtful consideration.
- The MGC recently attempted to force upon the communities surrounding the proposed Foxwoods casino a MAPC-driven impact review process, despite those communities clear and vocal opposition. We view this as an obvious effort by the MGC to identify a suitably compliant group that will endorse any applicant-generated impact report, ignoring the fact that the MAPC does not truly represent the needs of the impacted communities and would not even undertake any independent studies of its own. Further, the trivial sum promised by the MGC to support such work by impacted communities seems designed to prevent any real review of the impacts without those communities being forced to spend a small fortune.
- The MGC ignores its own directives when those directives become inconvenient. The Foxwoods applicant group has undertaken no outreach to communities abutting the proposed casino, and in fact has refused even to admit that those communities might be "Surrounding Communities" as defined in the legislation. They have provided no funding for impact studies — they haven't even provided those towns with copies of their proposed plan. Their obvious intent is to ignore those communities until the very end, and then work with the MGC to steamroll them through an arbitration process. The MGC chairman has stated multiple times that applicants must engage with surrounding communities in a good faith manner in an effort to address their concerns, yet there seems to be no penalty for doing so. What benefit are the rules if they are not applied?
The Town of Hopkinton views the proposed Foxwoods casino as an existential threat both to the Town and the entire MetroWest region. In order to protect its critical interests, the Town is already being forced to enter into litigation against the MGC related to many of the process failures described in this letter. We further anticipate that the MetroWest Anti-Casino Coalition, a regional group consisting of four towns most directly impacted by the proposed Foxwoods casino, may also be forced to undertake legal action on behalf of the larger group. In the absence of support from the state and a rational process in which we can have faith, we will take any and all actions necessary to protect our citizens, community and region.
For this reason, we ask that you immediately take a series of steps to repair this badly broken process and demonstrate a commitment to the critical principals of good government. First, we believe that the chairman of the commission must immediately be replaced. All of these failures have taken place on his watch and we see no way in which he can be viewed as an appropriate custodian of the public trust. Second, we ask that you direct the MGC to place its entire process on hold while the timing issue and other shortcomings are fixed. Third, we ask that you direct the MGC to undertake all of its activities in full accordance with both the letter and spirit of the Commonwealth and the directions of the Commission's charter.
We look forward to your response and to your efforts to reorganize the activities of the MGC before further damage is done.
On behalf of the town of Hopkinton,
its Board of Selectmen