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Keller @ Large: Relationship Between Casinos, Mass. Regulators Fraying Badly

BOSTON (CBS) - The good news out of Wednesday's state Gaming Commission meeting is that Encore casino officials are saying they're on track for the scheduled June 23 opening of the massive Everett facility. And oh yes, if you're someone who's still thirsty at 2 a.m., the Commission cleared Encore to serve booze to gamblers until 4 a.m.

The bad news lurking over the proceedings - the once-cozy relationship between the casino industry and Massachusetts regulators is fraying badly.

For Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox, industry insiders tell us, the corporate and personal fines levied by state gaming officials over the Steve Wynn scandal weren't the problem as much as their demand that the new casino accept long-term oversight from an independent monitor with the power to dictate policy.

Encore Wynn
Encore Boston Harbor in Everett. (WBZ-TV)

Says Father Richard McGowan, a Boston College expert on gaming: "They want to be able to run and do things a lot differently than most other casinos, and I think the thought of having someone tell them what to do has really stuck in their craw."

While Encore officials now say they're good to go for that June 23rd opening, they have until the end of this month to file an appeal of their punishment. And Father McGowan predicts more pushback against Gaming Commission micromanagement.

"I think it's going to be the local communities who are actually going to call the shots on this and they are going to make the case: leave these casinos alone, we like what they are doing for us," he says.

While everyone expects the Everett facility to rake in the dough, the disappointing performance of the MGM Springfield casino is a sign that forecasts of a statewide windfall from legalized gambling were overstated.

"It hasn't been the golden egg people thought it was going to be," says McGowan. "It was way, way, way over-promised."

There's a lot riding on that late-June opening in Everett, including the financial health of Wynn Resorts after recent downturns at their Las Vegas and Macau properties, and the reputation and clout of the state Gaming Commission.

Remember when we were told casinos meant easy money here? In Massachusetts, it seems, nothing comes easy.

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