Some object as Senate passes casino bill
October 14, 2011
Despite the opposition of some local legislators, the state took one more step toward casino gambling when the Senate passed its version of the gambling bill in a 24-14 vote yesterday after six days of debate.
State Sens. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester, and Michael Moore, D-Millbury, voted in favor of the bill, while Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, Karen Spilka, D-Ashton, and Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln, held firm in their opposition to casinos.
Sen. Richard Moore, D-Uxbridge, who last year voted in favor of expanded gambling, voted against the bill because his amendment, which would have denied neighboring communities the power to veto construction of a casino in their area, failed.
“I’m disappointed that we’re now going to move forward with the bill telling people that they can have casinos and giving surrounding communities a veto to prevent exactly what we’re trying to do,” Moore said. “The bill as it is now will not create jobs, will not create revenue, if any community aims to blackmail another. I cannot support this bill in its current form.”
Moore predicted that without his amendment, the location of the three casinos allowed by the legislation will be subject to years of court battles.
“We are putting ourselves in a position of having a procedure that would just not be workable,” he said. “Without it, I don’t see that we will ever get to the final groundbreaking or ribbon-cutting because they’ll be tied up in court or mitigation.”
Eldridge, a longtime opponent of casino legislation, supported amendments that would increase the participation of surrounding communities.
One of his rejected amendments would have guaranteed more participation to communities within a 5-mile radius of a casino site and any community touching the host community, since a casino would also affect the traffic, environment and public safety of those communities.
“A community that may be only a few feet away would not have a voice,” he said. “It’s a basic issue of fairness. There’s been conversation about a voice vs. a vote, but I think at the end of the day the best way to protect our communities is to give them a vote in bringing a casino to their region.”
Eldridge’s amendment was supported by Fargo and Spilka, but the plan failed by a 27-11 vote.
The Senate’s bill allows for three casinos and one slot parlor, an agreement that was previously worked out by Gov. Deval Patrick, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray.
Now that the Senate has passed the bill, the House and the Senate will form a six-person committee to negotiate a final version of the bill that will include several elements from the version passed by the House on Sept. 16. The final draft will go to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk for his signature.