Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday put a trusted aide in charge of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission at a critical moment for the state’s emerging casino industry.
Cathy Judd-Stein, who takes office next month, has served as deputy chief legal counsel for Baker since 2015. News of her appointment comes as the commission awaits a report on a staff investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Steve Wynn, the former chief executive of Wynn Resorts. The Las Vegas gambling giant is scheduled to open a massive casino in Everett this June .
Judd-Stein has been part of every gubernatorial administration in Massachusetts since 2000, when Governor Paul Cellucci hired her as deputy legal counsel and ethics adviser. She has also been a high-ranking staffer at the state lottery and general counsel to the state treasury.
“She’s a thoughtful, diligent, and fair thinker. She sees everything through to the bitter end . . . and is not afraid to raise difficult questions along the way,” Baker said at a news conference announcing the appointment.
Judd-Stein will fill a role left vacant by Stephen P. Crosby, who stepped down in September from the helm of the agency that oversees gambling in the state.
Crosby said at the time that he had been falsely accused of bias in handling the Wynn investigation — by Wynn and by Mohegan Sun, a casino company that sued the commission for awarding the license to Wynn.
“I simply cannot let my involvement in these critical deliberations be used by others to hamper the commission’s ability to do its work, or to undermine the confidence of the public in that work,” Crosby wrote at the time.
The outcome of the Wynn investigation could have implications for the opening and operation of the Everett casino, which has already been built and is called Encore Boston Harbor.
Commission investigators have been working for about a year to determine what company officials knew about the sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn and how it handled them. Wynn resigned from the firm shortly after the allegations against him were detailed last January in The Wall Street Journal. Wynn denies any wrongdoing.
The commission has the power to rescind the license it awarded to Wynn’s company in 2014, a move that could cost construction workers, vendors, and potential employees at the site.
The Wynn company and Mohegan Sun both said Tuesday they hoped to build a productive relationship with Judd-Stein.
“We look forward to getting to know Chairwoman Judd-Stein and sharing more information about Encore’s progress, economic benefits and focus on supporting the local community,” Wynn Resorts said in a statement.
Mohegan Sun said the appointment “will allow the Commission to fulfill its regulatory charge in the way the Commonwealth’s gaming legislation intended.”
Baker and Judd-Stein said little about how she would approach the regulation of gaming in Massachusetts, or whether she expected to be on the job when the commission’s staff submit their report on Wynn.
Commissioner Gayle Cameron has been serving as interim chair of the five-member gaming panel since Crosby’s departure.
The commission is also facing other pressing questions, including the fate of casino gambling in Southeastern Massachusetts. The agency has been proceeding slowly on the question of whether to award a license there, amid an effort by the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe to open a separate tribal casino in Taunton.
And, in the coming months, the commission will likely join the debate on Beacon Hill over sports gambling. Massachusetts is among a handful of states considering whether to allow wagering on sports, following a US Supreme Court ruling last year that paved the way for a dramatic expansion of the practice beyond Nevada.
Judd-Stein said she hasn’t taken a position on sports gambling.
“The Gaming Commission is founded on principles of openness and transparency, and before I form an opinion, I’m going to follow those principles,” she said.
Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.