Guest Op-Ed: Welcoming Phase of Reentry and Renewal

By Cathy Judd-Stein

It is often said that the opportunity to find a deeper power within emerges when life becomes most challenging. Like many, I continue to reflect on the magnitude of fear and uncertainty we collectively experienced during the pandemic’s darkest days while marveling at the resilience and ingenuity demonstrated by countless individuals and industries, including our MGC team, gaming licensees, and large stakeholder community. 

We continue to honor the feelings of grief, loss and anxiety that have left an indelible mark on our hearts and minds. But as vaccination rates go up and face masks come down, I am heartened as we transition into a welcomed phase of reentry and renewal, embracing the many lessons learned and harnessing the power of our proven adaptive capabilities. 

I would like to recognize my fellow Commissioners Gayle Cameron, Eileen O’Brien and Enrique Zuniga for their steady, dedicated guidance and support during these difficult months. Each Commissioner brings their individual perspectives, expertise, and compelling insights, bolstering our collective strength as we led a public body during these challenging times. We deeply appreciate Executive Director Karen Wells for directing the team’s execution and implementation of the Commission’s decisions and advice.

I also wish to express my most sincere gratitude for the entire MGC staff for the immeasurable ways in which team members addressed multiple adaptive challenges and arrived at creative solutions, despite the emotional toll of unprecedented circumstances. 

A confluence of challenges required us to nimbly adjust our practices yet remain firmly guided by our principles. In close coordination with our licensees, a strong collaborative spirit and an innovative culture propelled our team’s ability to accomplish our regulatory objectives, ensure the effective implementation of state mandates and prioritize health and well-being above all else. Indeed, the Commission has held nearly 120 virtual public meetings since Governor Baker’s March 2020 executive order allowing the use of remote collaboration technology under the Open Meeting Law. The MGC seamlessly transitioned to remote operations while safeguarding our fundamental principles of transparency and accountability – a credit to the preparedness of numerous MGC departments. 

Profound lessons continue to emerge from a transformative year defined by the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and deeply rooted racial injustice. The urgency of systemic inequality catalyzed the establishment of MGC’s Equity and Inclusion Working Group. The Gaming Commission has since unanimously adopted the Working Group’s five-point action plan, with anti-racism as a primary guiding principle. The Equity and Inclusion Working Group remains focused on ensuring that the MGC’s internal and external-facing systems yield equitable outcomes, protect individuals and communities of color from disproportionate negative effects and dismantle barriers obstructing racial equity.

In March 2020, we pledged to navigate the unknown and face the uncertainty together. Today, the circumstances have changed, but the sentiment remains the same: our team will rise to meet the evolving environment TOGETHER, united by a shared purpose and driven by our deeply held values of integrity, service, and inclusion.

Cathy Judd-Stein is the chair of Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

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