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Massachusetts House approves casino gambling

Publication Date: 2011-09-15
  • Author:Mark Arsenault and Noah Bierman
  • Publication:Boston Globe

The Massachusetts House last night overwhelmingly approved casino gambling, bolstering confidence among lawmakers that slot machines and Las Vegas-style table games will be coming to the Commonwealth.

The bill, which passed 123-32 just after 9 p.m., would authorize three “resort” casinos and one slots-only gambling parlor in Massachusetts. The Senate expects to take up the measure later this month and Governor Deval Patrick has signaled initial support.

The first slot parlor could open within a year, with casinos to follow two or more years after that, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said.

“We’re taking a major step in the creation of jobs ,” said DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat who has made expanded gambling his priority for two years. “We are right now in Massachusetts -- or have been -- in a blue collar depression...this is a workforce that we really have to address.”

Lawmakers have proposed casinos sporadically for decades, but the state’s Puritan heritage, as well as a belief that casinos would take more from the state than they would give back, thwarted previous attempts.

Support grew more substantial over the past two years, due to stubbornly high unemployment and a new consensus of a governor and two legislative chiefs who favor casinos. Last year, a similar bill passed the House and the Senate before a disagreement with Patrick over the size and type of the facilities derailed it.

Lawmakers say the state is desperate for jobs and a new stream of tax money.

“Personally, expanded gambling, I suppose I could take or leave,” said Representative Joseph F. Wagner, a Chicopee Democrat and the lead sponsor of the bill, who confessed his gambling experience is limited to the “occasional game of Keno.” But “I can’t ignore the thousands of jobs and I won’t ignore the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.”

Patrick offered critical support for the bill last month, and has indicated he is inclined to sign it.

“The debate today I think is a long time coming,” Patrick told reporters earlier Wednesday. “There’s a lot I like about the bill and I’ll be interested to see what shape it takes when it reaches my desk.”

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