Gambling commission chairman says there’s been no lobbying from elected officials

LAS VEGAS — In the seven months the Massachusetts gambling commission has been working, members have received “not one single phone call” from a lawmaker or elected official attempting to lobby or pressure the panel, the commission’s chairman, Stephen Crosby, said Tuesday at a Las Vegas gambling industry conference.

Crosby said safeguards in the 2011 casino law intended to protect the board from outside pressures are working. “We are very insulated by way of legislation from political interference,” he said.

Crosby spoke Tuesday on a panel at the Global Gaming Exposition at the Las Vegas Sands Convention Center, on the iconic Vegas Strip. The annual event is one of the largest conventions of the casino industry.

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Projecting independence from political influence is critical for the five-member state commission, which is trying to promote competition among casino companies, especially in the Greater Boston region where Suffolk Downs in East Boston is currently the only applicant for a gambling license. The commission has run up against a persistent belief in the casino industry that Suffolk Downs, in partnership with Caesars Entertainment, has a lock on a casino license due to local political support and connections.

Crosby credited two aspects of the state casino law with shielding the panel from influence: As chairman, he was appointed to a seven-year term, which means his tenure could outlast the current gubernatorial administration and the next one. Also, the commission’s operation is currently being financed with a $15 million state loan, freeing it from dependence on the Legislature for money. The loan will eventually be repaid from casino licensing fees, which will be at least $85 million for each casino resort license.