Slots supporters press on
despite House’s no votes
Turn attention to passage in Senate,
where leaders are seen sympathetic
By TOM BENNER ~ Patriot Ledger State House
Bureau - 4-16-03
of legalized gambling in Massachusetts are now looking to the state
Senate as the final chance to keep alive the idea of legalizing
slot machines to help alleviate the state’s budget crunch.
Another push from Gov. Mitt Romney would help, too, they said.
Two bills to allow what would essentially be slot-machine parlors
in Massachusetts were defeated yesterday in the House.
Speaker Thomas M. Finneran led the opposition in the House, but
Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, with two of the state’s four
tracks in his district, has expressed support for expanded gambling
as legislators seek to close a $3-billion budget gap.
far as the Senate is concerned, everything is still on the table
and we’ll be reviewing all proposals,” Sen. Therese Murray, D-Plymouth,
the Senate’s top budget writer, said yesterday.
Romney has also come out in favor of expanding gambling, proposing
between three and five video slot facilities around the state on
a five-year trial basis. He estimates they would raise $144 million
next year and more than $300 million annually in following years
for a total of $1.6 billion over five years.
“If people see how dead the budget is, maybe it will be reinvigorated,”
said Sen. Michael W. Morrissey, D-Quincy, whose Government Regulations
Committee acts a gatekeeper for gaming-related legislation. “If
they see they might get $200 million or $300 million, they may want
to consider it.”
Morrissey is preparing a bill calling for slots and at least one-full
fledged casino, which he said he’ll introduce if enough senators
support it. He insists that by allowing “racinos,” or race tracks
with slots parlors, the state is opening the door to a full-fledged
Las Vegas-style casino.
“It’s basically an all-or-nothing proposition,” he said. “Once
you decide to put slots in the commonwealth, you have to deal with
the Indian gaming issue. That means some kind of casino. You just
can’t do so-called racinos.”
The state’s only federally recognized Native American tribe, the
Wampanoags of Gay Head, shrugged off yesterday’s House defeat of
the slot proposals.
“It has done nothing to dampen our optimism or our commitment
to press forward and pursue our rights under the Indian Gaming Regulatory
Act,” said tribal Chairwoman Beverly Wright.
The House defeated two proposals, one to allow 1,500 slot machines
at each of the state’s four race tracks, and a second bill that
would allow 9,000 slots at the four tracks and two other locations.
“I don’t think this ends the debate,” said Rep. Garrett J. Bradley,
D-Hingham, who voted for both proposals. “It’s a step back, but
I think the Senate has plans of its owns.”
Bradley rejected arguments that allowing slots at the race tracks
is a giveaway to the racing industry. He said the tracks are best
suited to quickly become racinos.
“It’s established gambling in certain areas where it’s not a new
venture, so the new revenue would be received far quicker than if
you were starting from scratch,” Bradley said.
In addition to Bradley, South Shore House members who voted to
allow slots were Bruce Ayers, D-Quincy, David Flynn, D-Bridgewater,
William C. Galvin, D-Canton, Susan W. Gifford, R-Wareham, Robert
Nyman, D-Hanover, Walter Timilty, D-Milton, and Daniel Webster,
“We ought to have casino gambling because our tax dollars are
flowing out the door to Connecticut,” Webster said. “Whether we’re
in a budget crisis or not, we ought to be taking advantage of those
dollars here in Massachusetts.”
Gifford said expanded gambling is preferable to raising taxes
in order to balance the state’s books.
“The Legislature has missed an opportunity to really capitalize
on money that’s being spent by Massachusetts residents in other
states,” she said.
South Shore House members who voted along with House Speaker Finneran
against the slots proposals were Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, Frank
Hynes, D-Marshfield, Ronald Mariano, D-Quincy, James Murphy, D-Weymouth,
Thomas O’Brien, D-Kingston, Kathleen Teahan, D-Whitman, and Stephen
Rep. Louis L. Kafka, D-Sharon, voted against allowing six slots
parlors, but for racinos.
Tobin, a member of Finneran’s leadership team, said expanded gaming
will bring negatives that may equal any increased revenues to the
“The open questions are what’s the impact on the Lottery, and
balanced with the projected social costs, I just think it’s a wash
at best,” Tobin said.
Joseph C. Sullivan, director of the Braintree-based state Lottery,
praised the House vote. He said slots parlors would eat into Lottery
revenues, which generate millions of dollars in state aid to cities
“If you establish new entertainment venues, it will have an impact
upon the revenue flow that’s currently in place with the Lottery,”
Sullivan and state Treasurer Tim Cahill, who oversees Lottery
operations, believes an advertising budget to publicize large jackpots
will help increase Lottery sales.
“We believe that we can not only position the Lottery for growth,
but there are some great opportunities for that expansion over the
next couple of years within the Lottery,” Sullivan said.
Tom Benner may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org