The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) had a bit of a re-shuffling this week with the announcement that Commissioner James McHugh – a Charlestown resident and retired state judge – plans to resign his post on Sept. 30.
That announcement was followed by the news that MGC Executive Director Rick Day would not return to his post, coming on as a consultant after a vacation this week.
Both announcements leave large voids in the MGC, but they seemed to come following the successful opening of the state’s first expanded gaming facility – Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville.
McHugh, who resides in Charlestown, came out of retirement three years ago to accept his appointment to the MGC. On Monday, when the announcement became public, he indicated he wanted more time with his family.
“In the interval between the Plainridge opening and commencement of the Region C evaluation process, I think it is time to pick up my postponed retirement,” he wrote. “I have a marvelous family, including three very young grandchildren whose presence and imagination invariably evoke smiles, energy and a profound sense of wonder. At this stage of my life, I want to spend more time with all of them. Therefore, I met with Attorney General Healey, my appointing authority, last Friday afternoon (July 24) and informed her that my last day of service as a Commissioner will be Sept. 30…After September 30 and to the extent it is helpful, I will maintain a connection to the Commission to facilitate a smooth transition to my successor and to provide whatever assistance might be useful to our legal team and others. It has been a high privilege to serve with each of you. Thank you for the opportunity you gave me to do so.”
Known to be the Commissioner who asked the questions no one else was asking, McHugh’s role became elevated when he took over the chairmanship of the Greater Boston licensing process due to the recusal of Commissioner Steve Crosby prior to Wynn being chosen.
He was the lone vote for Mohegan Sun during the license award process for Greater Boston, and expressed his displeasure with the Everett site and the complications involved with mitigating its traffic.
He also was the brainchild behind what became known locally as the “McHugh Compromise” following the vote of East Boston to reject a casino proposal at Suffolk Downs. In the wake of that ‘no’ vote, Revere and Suffolk Downs came back with a new proposal to site a casino only on property in Revere, which had voted in favor of the casino. It was uncharted territory, and McHugh forged a compromise to allow Revere’s proposal to move forward, as long as there was another referendum held on the new proposal.
That compromise eventually allowed two proposals – Mohegan Sun and Wynn – to advance to the final stage of the licensing process.
Healey will initiate a process to choose a successor on the MGC.
For Day, he came to the MGC from Montana and said in a statement he looked forward to returning closer to his children and grandchildren.
“After careful consideration and discussion with Chairman Crosby, We have decided to conclude my full-time employment in my position as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission,” he wrote. “I will continue with the Commission in a consulting role for as long as my services are required… I would like to thank my wife, Jan, who has been by my side on this cross-country endeavor and who has sacrificed greatly by being more than 2,000 miles away from our children and grandchildren. We now look forward to rejoining our loved ones in our home State of Montana. I will be working with the Commissioners to finalize the terms of my departure and ongoing relationship.”
Day has been the executive director for two-and-a-half years, and said now was a good time to exit due to the successful opening of Plainridge.
“Now in the wake of the remarkably successful opening of the state’s first expanded gaming facility, I feel that both personally and professionally, this is an appropriate time for change,” he wrote.