Massachusetts Gaming Commissioner Eileen O’Brien has been named one of the “25 People To Watch in 2024” by Global Gaming Business.
O’Brien is one of five members of the MGC, which regulates casinos, online sports betting and retail sportsbooks, and the Massachusetts Lottery. If Massachusetts online casinos are legalized soon, she’ll likely help regulate that industry, too.
She has served as commissioner since 2018.
The list celebrates the achievements of innovators in the gaming industry, said Global Gaming Business Publisher Roger Gros.
“[O’Brien and others on the GGB list] have all already made an impact in the gaming world, and our focus on them in this annual feature shows the industry just how important these individuals are.”
O’Brien has been honored throughout her career
Massachusetts sports betting began less than a year ago. Led by O’Brien and others on the MGC, the commonwealth established itself as a stringent and thoughtful jurisdiction. In many ways, the state is setting a precedent for the way legal gaming should be regulated.
O’Brien holds the top seat on the MGC, a position that comes by appointment from the state’s Attorney General’s Office. The person who fills that seat must have experience in law enforcement and criminal investigation.
O’Brien previously served the AG in the Special Investigations and Narcotics Division. She was senior trial counsel for the Criminal Bureau of the Massachusetts Attorney for five years.
With the Criminal Bureau, O’Brien gained a reputation for her dogged dedication to investigating and prosecuting criminal cases, focusing primarily on corruption, embezzlement and trafficking.
The recognition from GGB joins a long list of accolades for O’Brien, many of them impressive professional honors.
She received the 2015 Manuel Carballo Governor’s Award for Excellence in Public Service. She also earned the 2004 Special Achievement Award from the New England Narcotic Enforcement Officers’ Association. In 2003, she was honored with the Scott Harshbarger Award for Excellence, which is awarded for exemplary public service.
O’Brien, the longest-serving member of the MGC, graduated from Northeastern University School of Law after attending Middlebury College in Vermont. She was reappointed to the MGC in 2023 for a five-year term.
O’Brien’s contributions to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission
During O’Brien’s nearly six years on the MGC, the gaming industry in the commonwealth has been transformed. Two new casinos, MGM Springfield and Encore Boston Harbor, were opened in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
In 2022, state legislators passed a sports betting bill, which led the commission and O’Brien to set the framework for a legal market for sportsbooks. The MGC launched online sportsbooks less than six weeks after retail betting went live, a remarkably efficient and rapid timeline.
In addition to those milestones, the MGC has become a respected regulatory body.
Massachusetts was at the forefront of implementing regulations that protect consumers from pervasive advertising from sports betting operators.
Ramping up for the launch of sports betting, O’Brien pointedly questioned Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, for his statements on gambling and alleged misconduct at his company. She has consistently exhibited her dogged determination to protect the citizens of Massachusetts and establish safeguards for responsible gaming.
She’s advocated that sportsbooks should be required to provide anonymous customer data for the purpose of research into gambling addiction. She was also part of the majority that narrowly passed a regulation requiring all mentions of sports betting or use of a sportsbook logo in Massachusetts to also include a “21+” message.
Merging traditional and iGaming will be top challenge in 2024, GGB editor says
The Global Gaming Business editorial advisory board chose the “25 People to Watch in 2024” list. The magazine has compiled the list for 22 consecutive years. Once someone is named on the list, they can’t appear on a future list.
The impact of online casinos can be seen in this year’s list, Gros said.
“The gaming industry is going through a sea change as the land-based and iGaming worlds come together. Many of the people honored by their inclusion in the 2024 list are prime participants in that merger. Their vision will shape gaming for many years to come.”