Massachusetts Has a Gambling Problem

And yet DeLeo continues to press ahead. His district (big surprise) is home to the Wonderland Greyhound Park and Suffolk Downs horse track, which together employ some 2,650 people. Slots would save many of those jobs, but do little for the rest of the state. This won’t stop House reps from following the speaker, however, since they tend to defy their leadership about as often as members of the North Korean parliament.

It doesn’t help that Massachusetts’ other key power players also want some form of gaming. Senate President Therese Murray went so far as to give a Ka-ching! when describing it as a way to raise much-needed revenue for the state. (If only all legislative issues could be dealt with using cartoon sound effects.) And Beacon Hill insiders say the governor, who has opposed slots at tracks in favor of resort casinos, is now open to compromise on the issue. "The odds of something passing are better than they’ve ever been since we first started debating the issue back in ’95," says Barrow.

That’s testament to DeLeo’s power (and, three years into the job, Patrick’s political frailty), especially since voters don’t seem to be clamoring for racinos. A recent Boston Globe poll showed that if gambling were to be legalized in Massachusetts, 60 percent of residents would support building resort casinos. A scant 12 percent said they favored slots at dog and horse tracks.

Of course, what’s likely to happen is that we end up with both types of gaming, resort casinos and racinos—a scenario that will diminish the value of the full-casino licenses and, over time, do less for the economy than if the state allowed only resort facilities. By trying to have the best of both worlds, we could very well be stuck with the worst of each.

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