Two candidates for the position of interim executive director of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) were interviewed on Monday.
The MGC voted unanimously to approve Todd Grossman as interim director. He will assume that vital position once Karen Wells leaves office on July 14.
Grossman currently serves as general counsel to the MGC. Current executive director Wells served full-time in that role since 2020.
Grossman promises to provide ‘steady hand’
Grossman ultimately earned the support of the MGC commissioners based on his track record working with all facets of gaming.
MGC Chair Cathy Judd-Stein specifically praised Grossman for his work as general counsel during the run-up to launching sports betting apps in Massachusetts.
“(The launch of sports betting came about) through thoughtful planning, through a lot of teamwork and a lot of compromise. … And at the end of the day we all came out of it together,” Grossman said.
Grossman stressed that his experience and position as general counsel could be a benefit for the transition into a new executive director, so as to not derail the growth and trajectory of the MGC’s work.
“This position is not for the faint of heart,” Grossman said. “I offer that steady hand who won’t get shaken by any big issue that comes our way. I can offer you a steady hand.”
Grossman was assistant general counsel to the MGC from 2012 to 2019. He’s been general counsel since August 2020.
Previously, he was commissioner of the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission from 2010 to 2012, and deputy general counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety from 2006 to 2012.
He was assistant district attorney for Middlesex County from 2000 to 2004. He received his law degree from New England School of Law.
Role of the executive director
The MGC executive director guides the entire agency, which includes licensing and regulatory matters, legal, vendor relationships, and the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB).
The role of executive director has acquired more responsibilities since the legalization of online sports betting. The MGC followed a careful but expeditious process to launch sports betting in Massachusetts earlier this year. The structure for issuing licenses, vetting licensees and regulating an entire new industry was born under the tenure of Wells.
The timeline for hiring a permanent replacement has not been issued, but with sports betting, MA casinos and lottery all taking up space on the MGC’s agenda, it likely won’t be a long process.
“Massachusetts has a great future in front of us, and we can have no disruption. The casinos are open, sports betting is open for business and we have to keep going,” Grossman said.
Grossman won’t handle racing matters
The commissioners, led by Eileen O’Brien, chose to compromise rather than make a decision to hand all executive director responsibilities to Grossman. Instead, racing matters will be handled by Dr. Alexandra Lightbown, the second candidate for the interim position.
Grossman will be responsible for legal and administrative matters, while Lightbown will report directly to the MGC on Massachusetts horse racing matters, per the unanimous vote taken Monday.
The MGC expressed discomfort with the public manner in which the hiring was required to be made. Commissioners also stressed that neither of the two candidates should be seen as not being capable.
“We’ve placed (both candidates) in an untenable position,” Commissioner Nakisha Skinner said.
“It was a tough decision, and there are no losers here,” Commissioner Jordan Maynard added.
The role of interim executive director will serve while the MGC establishes a job description and hiring committee for the purposes placing a person permanently into that role. Grossman will also serve as general counsel while he holds the position of interim executive director for the MGC.