The gaming expansion casino bill in Massachusetts took center stage last month when hearings began at the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, where 13 proposals were discussed.
The real action may be happening in discussions between House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Therese Murray and Governor Deval Patrick over differences they have in how the bill should be shaped. Their disagreement over whether the bill should have two racinos, which DeLeo supports and Patrick opposes, killed legislation a year ago. They do agree that there should be three regional casinos.
However, the governor has said several times that he is not as motivated to approve casinos as the speaker. Recently, he told an interviewer, “This is much higher on the speaker’s agenda than it is on my agenda. We are going to find our way to something, but we are not there yet.”
That would appear to put the burden of compromise on DeLeo. Many observers note that his statements in recent months have been more conciliatory on the issue. But DeLeo, whose district includes two racetracks, and whose father worked in a racetrack, is a passionate advocate for their interests.
As the hearings approached, the speaker said, “Let’s have the hearing. Let’s see what the testimony says. And, at that point, I think we’ll be in a better position for all of us to have further discussions.’’
On the other hand, Patrick may be more open to a gaming bill this year since he is not facing the electorate, many of whom adamantly oppose gambling, as he did last November.
If they agree on a compromise, committee co-chairman Joseph F. Wagner said the committee would be ready to vote on it. “We begin much further along,” he said.
According to The Republican, Joseph A. Lashinger, a former Pennsylvania legislator and casino developer, told the committee, “We are firmly committed to creating thousands of local jobs, generating millions in annual tax revenue, and boosting the local economy by providing preference to Massachusetts vendors when it comes to the procurement of goods and services.”
Wynn Resorts is reportedly considering a proposal for a $1.5 billion casino if gaming legislation passes. “We’re interested,” said a company spokesman, who noted that such a project could employ upwards of 10,000 construction workers and 8,000 permanent workers.
Other companies that are eyeing the Bay State include Caesars Entertainment, Pinnacle Entertainment and Mohegan Sun. Las Vegas Sands contends other states, such as Florida and Texas, are higher on their priority list.