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Casino opponent blasts `cozy relationship’ between state officials and gaming industry

A prominent casino opponent sharply criticized the “cozy relationship” between state officials and the gaming industry following a report in The Globe today that Governor Deval Patrick’s top economic development aide bought stock in two Las Vegas gaming companies last year.

Former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, president of Citizens for a Stronger Massachusetts, said “the cozy relationship between our elected and appointed officials, casino bosses, and their hired guns is deeply troubling, and today’s Boston Globe expose just peels back another layer of this rotten onion.”

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“The more we learn about the insider dealing that shrouds this entire issue, the more red flags it should wave for all of us, including legislators and the Governor,” Harshbarger said.

The Globe reported today that Gregory Bialecki, secretary of housing and economic development, held more than $17,000 stock last year in Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Resorts Ltd., both of which have expressed interest in building casinos in Massachusetts.

Bialecki said the stocks were bought by a financial advisor in August 2010 without his knowledge. When he later learned of the purchases, Bialecki said, he did not think the holdings posed a problem because he didn’t pick the stocks ; they accounted for only a small percentage of his portfolio; and he doesn’t expect to award any of the casino licenses. Bialecki sold the stocks last week after the Globe questioned him about the investments.

The House and Senate have approved legislation to allow casinos in the state, but must still agree on a compromise bill to send to Patrick for final approval.

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