Gaming Commission shouldn’t skimp on background checks

As the Gaming Commission prepares to award a casino license for the Boston area early next month, it needs to look into the eleventh-hour reports that one of the bidders, Mohegan Sun, may have violated the terms of its agreement with a Palmer landowner last year. The 2011 state casino law requires the commission to ensure the suitability of potential casino operators, including their integrity.

Mohegan Sun passed its initial suitability hearing last October. At the time, it planned to build a casino in Palmer on land owned by Northeast Realty Associates. When that plan was narrowly rejected by Palmer voters in November, Mohegan Sun quickly struck a deal with Suffolk Downs racetrack to build a casino there instead. The Palmer landowners allege those discussions — which, as shown by emails obtained by the Globe’s Mark Arsenault, began before the referendum’s defeat was formalized — violated the terms of its contract. That contract forbade Mohegan Sun from “engaging in discussions or negotiations concerning the opening of any gaming facility in Massachusetts” other than the Palmer site.

The Gaming Commission has held applicants to the highest ethical standards, and shouldn’t relax them just because the process is nearing the home stretch, with a final decision expected in September between Mohegan Sun’s Suffolk Downs plan and a rival Wynn Resorts proposal in Everett. Luckily, the Palmer allegations should be easy to investigate quickly: If Mohegan Sun can explain its actions to the satisfaction of the commissioners, the questioning shouldn’t delay the decision on the license.

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