JP residents are on Gaming Commission

Stephen Crosby and Enrique Zuniga, two Jamaica Plain residents, have seats on the recently finalized state Gaming Commission. The five-member commission will help usher casino gambling into the state and will decide which developers receive licenses to operate.

“We have a huge amount to do. We have to start from scratch,” Crosby said in a phone interview with the Gazette last week.

Crosby, who said he spent half his life as an entrepreneurial businessman in the publishing and high-tech industries, was picked by Gov. Deval Patrick to chair the committee last December. The 66-year-old is currently a dean at the University of Massachusetts Boston and was chief of staff to former Gov. Jane Swift and a budget official under former Gov. Paul Cellucci.

Despite having not worked in the gaming industry, Crosby noted he has a lot of experience with the main issues concerning casino gambling—real estate development, construction, law enforcement and community impact and involvement.

Zuniga was tapped March 12 by Treasurer Steven Grossman to serve as his corporate finance and security appointee to the commission. The 45-year-old Mexico native, who is currently the executive director of the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust, has worked in the past for the accounting firm Ernst & Young. While there, Zuniga said he worked on sizable real estate projects.

“I think it is a very important, momentous project,” Zuniga said about the commission in a separate interview with the Gazette. “I feel like I have a lot to offer.”

Similar to Crosby, Zuniga said he does not have a lot of experience with the gaming industry, but noted that many of the real estate projects he dealt with were in the hospitality industry.

Neither man will need to be dragged to Gambling Anonymous anytime soon. Zuniga said he gambles on occasion, while Crosby said he has been to Las Vegas for conferences, but doesn’t remember ever gambling there.

Both men spoke of gambling as a fact of life, and now that the legislature has ensured its arrival in the state, they need to maximize the positive and minimize the negative.

“I think it is something a lot of people like to do,” Crosby said about gambling. “It is not unreasonable for us to have it as long as we account for unintended consequences and maximize the public good.”

One issue that has already stirred controversy is whether there should be a citywide referendum to decide if a casino should be built in East Boston or if that section’s residents only should vote. They both replied only that it’s not their decision.

The pair spoke in endearing terms about JP. Crosby moved with his wife to the neighborhood two years ago after his house in Brookline burned down, while Zuniga has lived in JP with his wife and two kids since 2001.

“We love it, literally,” said Crosby. “We couldn’t be happier. We’ve met a lot of new people. It’s a wonderful neighborhood.”

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