In one of the most dramatic legislative reversals in recent history, the Massachusetts House of Representatives gave a veto-proof vote of 120-37 to Speaker Robert DeLeo for his bill that would authorize two regional casino resorts and four racinos. The bill survived over 200 amendment attempts.
Now it heads to the Senate, which approved a racino bill in 2005. The Senate, however, plans to pen its own gaming legalization bill, with a vote not expected until June.
The bill will, says DeLeo, create 18,000 jobs, generate up to $500 million annually in economic activity, and inject $100 million into local government from a 40 percent tax of gaming revenue. It would also collect $260 million in one-time licensing fees and require a $500 million minimum investment by a casino developer.
It would, if passed by the Senate and allowed to stand by the governor, make the state the 14th in the nation to have commercial casinos.
Much of that money will, it is expected, come from Massachusetts players who now play in neighboring states, such as Connecticut, where they spend over $1 billion annually.
Two years ago the House, under a different speaker, Salvatore F. DiMasi, shot down a three-casino resort bill by Governor Deval Patrick by more than two thirds. The main difference between then and now is the recession.
Most of those representatives reversed themselves in the new vote. That includes the speaker himself. But they aren’t the only ones who changed their minds. Patrick is now on record as opposing this bill, which he said would have unacceptable social costs.
Several representatives who fought hard for a guarantee that Western Massachusetts would be guaranteed one of the casinos were unsuccessful. That region includes the town of Palmer, where the development arm of the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut is pushing to build a mega-casino resort.
One ancillary effect of the bill was that online poker-playing in the Bay State was not criminalized, as it had been in the original bill pushed by Patrick two years ago. Removing that provision from the bill was supported by the Poker Players Alliance, a nationwide organization that has 25,000 members in the state.