The Massachusetts Gaming Commission set a good example in its very public evaluation of the three applicants for the state’s only slot parlor license. Commissioners released a series of clearly written reports this week grading the applicants on a range of criteria, and then held a surprisingly frank discussion Thursday before voting, 3-2, to award the license to Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville. Anyone could watch online as the commissioners sparred over whether Plainridge, or a rival proposal in Leominster, yielded more benefits for the state.
The decision itself is open to question — and that’s how it should be. The Leominster proposal was arguably better situated to be a long-term success, and the majority’s preference for bailing out the harness-racing track was misguided. But at least the public got to hear how and why commissioners reached their decisions, instead of wondering what happened behind closed doors. Heading into the showdown between Suffolk Downs and Steve Wynn’s Everett proposal for the lucrative casino license in Greater Boston, the commission’s performance bolsters confidence that all concerns will receive a thorough airing.
Not every excuse for official secrecy is nefarious; some officials don’t feel comfortable expressing unvarnished opinions in a public setting, and may pull their punches if they can’t hide behind the cloak of privacy. Luckily, that kind of reticence doesn’t seem to be much of a problem with these five officials.