Attorney General Maura Healey tells Mass. Gaming Commission she plans strict enforcement of casino gaming law

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Maura Healey
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, center, speaks with members of the media after testifying before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Boston. Wynn Resorts unveiled its proposed new designs for a casino in Everett, Mass., at a meeting of the commission Thursday. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) (Steven Senne)

By Robert Rizzuto

BOSTON — On her first full day in office, Attorney General Maura Healey told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that she plans a strict interpretation of the 2011 Expanded Gaming Act which legalized casino gaming in the commonwealth.

As a candidate for the office, Healey was a supporter of the failed referendum to repeal the law. And as the state's top lawyer, she says consumer advocacy, especially when it comes to multi-national corporations running gambling operations, will be a top priority.

"Our office is committed to using its full civil and criminal authority to ensure that the gaming industry is held to the many financial and legal commitments it has made to our state, host and neighboring communities, and the people of Massachusetts," Healey said in testimony delivered in front of the commission on Thursday. "Our office will make sure that casinos abide by their commitments and follow the law. We will ensure that consumers are protected from unfair and deceptive practices, that casino employees are treated fairly, that all processes are open and transparent, and that public protections are never left to chance. We believe that an active regulatory and enforcement approach is good for the public and for this new industry, which deserves clear rules of the road."

Among the specific areas Healey says her office will focus on are ATM availability in casinos, credit extensions and debt collections relating to the three casino licensees and the sole slots parlor. Healey referenced the recent debate to modify the state's law to allow ATM machines on casino grounds, albeit not on actual gaming floors.

Healey asked the commission to conduct a standalone process by engaging the public to decide how to proceed before taking any specific actions. She did suggest that if ATMs are allowed on the property, the commission consider protections including withdrawal limits and prohibiting credit card cash advances.

Regarding credit offerings and debt collections, Healey wants the commission to be proactive so customers don't fall victim to potentially predatory practices.

"Any 'ability to repay analysis' should consider a patron’s ability to sustain a full credit loss, and patrons should receive advance notice of when a counter-check or marker will be deposited with their bank," Healey said, while praising the provision in the state law that prohibits the practice of placing a lien on a homeowner’s primary residence to satisfy outstanding gaming debt. "We urge the commission to make additional amendments to the debt collection regulations, including adding language explicitly prohibiting licensees from selling consumer gaming debt."

Healey additionally pledged that her office will also investigate any signs that organized crime is moving in on casinos in the commonwealth. She also said that the Gaming Enforcement Division of the AG's office will be fully funded, staffed and watching each company for any signs of wrongdoing.

"In this new era, the public must feel confident that no casinos will be brought online before meeting their commitments and following the law," Healey said. "I have a responsibility to the public to ensure gaming accountability, and have made this a priority for my new administration."

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