August 1st, 2010
The Globe outlines the stand-off that now exists between the Governor and the legislature over casinos. As I understand it, all parties (the Governor, the House and the Senate) agree on three Las Vegas style destination resort casinos but differ when it comes to placing slot machines in the state’s four race tracks (creating so-called “racinos”). The House favored slots in all four, the Senate and the Governor wanted none. On Friday, in the midst of House-Senate negotiations, the Governor said he would assent to a single racino but when the conference committee returned its final bill there were two. That’s what passed both chambers yesterday just before the year’s legislative session ended. The Governor has been steadfast in asserting he will veto any bill with more than one racino. He has ten days to veto or sign the bill; if he does neither, the bill becomes law. What will happen now?
I believe we are witnessing some high-level political brinksmanship right now. With the Senate initially opposed to racinos, I suspect the House will relent and allow the legislation to go forward with just one. The House may believe that the Governor cannot afford to not have this bill go through and expect him to blink first. I suspect that would be a miscalculation because should the Governor back down now, he will look weak and subservient to the legislature and the political cost of that would greatly outweigh the cost of not getting the casinos done.
I guess I’m with the Governor and the Senate on this one. Visiting a resort casino is not on my list of the 100 Things to Do in Life, but many people I know and respect thoroughly enjoy their outings to Foxwoods and who am I to judge how they spend their leisure time and money. If a comparable facility was available within Massachusetts, so much the better. The racinos are another story. To me, they seem to be more about keeping alive rapidly fading race tracks than they are about economic development. If racing is soon to become a relic of the past, tossing in 1000 slot machines won’t save it. And while the resort casinos offer more than just gambling – hotels, restaurants, shows, shopping – a facility with nothing but slot machines seems like nothing more than a place where people can be relieved of a lot of their money for not much in return.
Whatever happens, I’m sure the behind-the-scenes maneuverings are fascinating. We’ll never know what’s really going on, but even the parts that are made public are worth watching.
July 30th, 2010
Senator Steven Panagiotakos (D-Lowell) one of the Casino Bill conferees – Photo from BostonHerald.com
Just in from the Globe MetroDesk:
House and Senate leaders have just announced an agreement on a bill to expand gaming in Massachusetts that would authorize three resort casinos and a pair of slot parlors at the state’s racetracks.
One casino would be located in each of three regions across the state — east, southeast and west. Two licenses to operator slot parlors would go to the state’s racetracks.
Lawmakers estimate the gambling could generate $300 million in licensing fees for the state. It was not immediately clear what the annual taxes on racing facilities would generate.
The story continues to unfold – stay tuned.
UPDATE from Globe MetroDesk at 7:55pm:
“I cannot support this bill in its current form,” the governor said in a statement issued just minutes after House and Senate leaders announced that they had agreed to legislation that would authorize three resort casinos as well as slot parlors at two of the state’s racetracks.
July 2nd, 2010
The Massachusetts State Senate voted 25-15 for a plan that would establish three resort-style casinos in the Commonwealth. They’d be located in Boston, the western part of the state and in the southeastern part of the state. It’s estimated that the three casinos would create 15,000 new jobs and produce approximately $300 million in tax and fee revenue each year. Senators from this region that voted for the bill were Steve Panagiotakos (Lowell) and Ken Donnelly of Arlington (who also represents Billerica). Voting against the bill were Sue Tucker, Sue Fargo and Jamie Eldridge. The full results of the Senate vote are here.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives has already passed its own casino bill but it contains significant differences, most notably it calls for only 2 casinos but it also allows slot machines at the state’s existing race tracks. The two bills now go to a conference committee to be reconciled. Despite their differences, I’m guessing that some compromise will be reached since there seems to be strong support for the concept and because of the attractiveness of the infusion of revenue derived from means other than a tax increase. This will all have to be done rather quickly since the legislative session comes to a close at the end of July and legislators will want to leave themselves plenty of time to override any veto the Governor may make if and when he signs the bill.
I’m ambivalent when it comes to casinos and state-sponsored gambling in general. Gambling holds no attraction for me, but many people I know truly enjoy visiting Foxwoods so who am I to judge how or where another person spends his recreational dollars. If they’re going to gamble, why not do it here within the Commonwealth so that the state can get its share of the money. That’s what I think every time I stop for gasoline or a coffee and see folks furiously scratching away at their lottery tickets. While they might win big (and there’s certainly entertainment value in harboring that hope), odds are they will lose and for every dollar they lose, it’s one less dollar I have to contribute to the state’s revenue, so it’s OK with me.