BOSTON – Massachusetts' top prosecutor, concerned that casinos could bring more criminal activity, has urged the state's gambling overseers to strengthen regulations to combat money laundering, human trafficking and other illicit activities.
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Attorney General Maura Healey wants the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which is meeting Thursday, to require casinos to file timely reports to the state about suspicious activity and large cash transactions and incorporate "zero tolerance" language in employee and vendor contracts about trafficking in people and drugs.
"Such regulations should deter would-be money launderers, and identify those engaged in other criminal enterprises, such as drug traffickers, human traffickers, loan sharks and organized crime," Healey wrote in the letter dated March 27.
The gaming commission told The Associated Press it is still reviewing the letter.
After years of debate and controversy, Massachusetts' casino industry launches in earnest with the expected June 24 opening of a $225 million Penn National Gaming slot parlor on the Rhode Island border.
Two other major resort casinos are also in development: an $800 million MGM casino in Springfield and a $1.7 billion Wynn casino in the Boston suburb of Everett.
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Healey, a Democrat and casino opponent elected in November, strongly supported last year's failed bid to repeal the state's casino law.
She has promised to make gambling enforcement a priority, using her first day in office in late January to testify before regulators.
Healey pledged to use her office to ensure casino consumer protection laws are enforced, criminal activity is prosecuted and casinos honor the commitments they've made to cities and towns.
Other top law enforcement officials also have voiced concerns about the potential for increased criminal activity with the advent of casinos.
FBI Special Agent Vincent Lisi, who heads the bureau's Boston office, has said that the industry provides "fertile ground" for bribery, fraud and abuse and that his agency would be on the lookout for instances of public corruption and financial and organized crime.
The American Gaming Association, a casino industry trade group, has dismissed such fears as "unfounded."
But the specter of criminal activity has overshadowed public debate over the casino industry in Massachusetts.
Three owners of the waterfront land that Wynn plans to build on in Everett face federal wire fraud charges. Prosecutors say the men tried to conceal from state regulators and the casino company the fact that a convicted felon and known mob associate would profit from the land deal, a violation of state statutes.