Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Massachusetts House Speaker To Reveal Gambling Plan Tomorrow

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Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo will hold a press conference tomorrow to outline his plan for gambling in Massachusetts. The following installment of The Tribes In The Media is an article in The Republican.

Plan for adding slot machines to racetracks criticized by casino backers
By Dan Ring and Lori Stabile
The Republican
March 31, 2010

BOSTON - Some local pro-gambling state legislators are criticizing the House speaker's proposed casino bill, saying the plan is flawed because it gives slot machines to the state's racetracks without specifying a casino resort for Western Massachusetts.

While some legislators criticized the proposal, a word of caution came from a top executive of Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun Authority, which wants to build a casino in Palmer. Because of the economy, the project might be scaled back, and a more realistic licensing fee may be $50 to $75 million, a sharp drop from the pre-recession $200 million that Gov. Deval L. Patrick said the state would receive from each casino.

House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo announced that he plans to unveil his casino bill during a press conference on Thursday morning at the Statehouse, along with Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, D-Haverhill, co-chairman of a legislative committee that oversees gambling bills.

During a speech in Boston earlier this month, DeLeo said he will propose a bill that would give a limited number of slot machines to each of the state's four horse and dog tracks and would establish two casino resorts. DeLeo has indicated he would call for a commission or "third party" to site casinos and that operators would bid for licenses.

“Slots at race tracks are machines that get rolled into a dying business and people throw quarters in them ... it doesn't bring anything.”- Rep. Todd M. Smola, R-PalmerDeLeo on Tuesday was optimistic about the chances for his proposed casino bill.

"I think most importantly it's the biggest jobs bill we've had here in a while," DeLeo said. "I feel very confident it will pass." He said debate on the bill may take place the week of April 12.

Unless the bill is revised, DeLeo might have trouble winning the votes of some local legislators.

Rep. Todd M. Smola, R-Palmer, said it will be very difficult for him to vote for a bill that calls for slot machines for racetracks, saying so-called racinos offer very little other than slot machines.

"Slots at race tracks are machines that get rolled into a dying business and people throw quarters in them," Smola said. "It doesn't bring anything."

Patrick has also said he is opposed to the racetrack slots. Patrick said he prefers building casino resorts, but has stopped short of saying he would veto a bill that includes slots at the tracks.

Rep. Sean F. Curran, D-Springfield, said he would vote for the bill on one condition - that it designate the four counties of Western Massachusetts as a region to receive a casino resort.

Curran said it is a contradiction to single out the four racetracks for slot machines and then fail to specify regions for casinos.