Massachusetts: Gambling bill (update)

Governor will not approve state legislature's majority vote

Saturday's vote to approve licensing for three land casinos and two slot parlours in the state of Massachusetts (see previous InfoPowa report) has been stalled by a counter proposal from Governor Deval Patrick which several politicians have characterised as amounting to a veto.

The state legislature voted 25-15 in the Senate and 115-36 in the House for the proposal despite Patrick’s opposition and threats that he would exercise the governor’s veto

Although a proponent of the casinos, the governor is reportedly opposed to the slot machine parlours and has recommended changes, commenting that he could agree to just one slot parlour licence, open to all bidders and not just the racetrack owners enshrined in the bill.

The now stalled initiative will see the state coffers benefiting by $85 million from each of the casino licenses and $20 million to $25 million from the licenses for the racetrack slot parlours, also known as racinos. Each of the two racinos would be allowed to have between 1,000 and 1,250 slot machines, depending on their location, reports the Associated Press.

Politicians anticipate up to $400 million in new annual revenues will also accrue.

Casino supporters hope that the expanded gambling opportunities in Massachusetts will stop the outflow of gambling dollars caused by residents travelling to nearby Connecticut and Rhode Island to bet.

By Monday politicians were blaming one another for the stalemate amid accusations that the governor’s obduracy could cost the state 15 000 jobs.

"If the governor vetoes this bill, or if he sends it back and it's unsignable or unworkable with the Legislature, he owns this recession; this is his recession," one politician said in a press conference.

Patrick has now challenged the House and Senate by re-filing amended legislation that would eliminate the slot parlors.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a fierce proponent of the slot parlour provisions in the original bill, appeared to concede it was dead, saying Patrick's decision had the same effect as a veto and legislative rules required the Legislature’s current session to end on Saturday.

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