Legislature rolls the dice on casino gambling
Posted Nov 16, 2011 @ 03:04 AM
Last update Nov 16, 2011 @ 03:08 AM
BOSTON — South Shore legislators say they hope Tuesday’s passage of a casino bill will pay off in jobs, additional state revenue and the return of Massachusetts gamblers who have left billions of dollars on the tables of other New England casinos.
“This bill wasn’t an issue of should we legalize gambling or not,” said Rep. Mark Cusack, D-Braintree. “Gambling was legalized in ’71 with the establishment of the Lottery Commission. This is about expanded gambling to create jobs and increase revenue.”
The final bill establishes up to three casinos and one slot machine parlor. Casino developers will pay the state at least $85 million in initial licensing fees and promise to invest at least $500 million in each casino resort.
Rep. James Cantwell, D-Marshfield, voted for the bill despite his concern about the slot parlor. But he said the bill addressed one of his other concerns: gambling addiction. The bill would require gambling sites to provide free on-site counseling and display information on gambling addiction.
“We have people right now who (gamble) in Connecticut and Rhode Island and they have those same problems of bankruptcy and we don’t have the ability to help them,” Cantwell said.
An amendment to the bill establishes a cooling-off period that would bar public officials who had been involved in gambling legislation from working in the industry for one year after leaving government.
The final bill does not include the “happy hour” provision approved by the Senate on an amendment by Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth, but instead requires a two-year study by the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission. Hedlund’s amendment would have lifted restrictions on happy hours in bars if casinos are allowed to give away drinks for free.
Hedlund and Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, voted against the bill. The Senate passed the final bill 23-14 shortly after the House voted 118-33 for the bill.
Keenan had previously offered an amendment that would have eliminated the slot parlor and limited the number of resort casinos to two.
“Three casinos and one slot parlor oversaturate the market, and the social cost associated with it would outweigh any of the financial benefits,” he said.