The Voters Kind of Speak on Casinos, Sort of
While most of us were busy yawning our way through last Tuesday’s elections, (and if all you did was yawn, feel grateful, I’ve heard rumors of people falling into boredom induced comas) voters in Worcester, Chicopee and Pittsfield trudged out to the polls to cast their votes on, among other things, local casino referendums. All three ballot questions passed in favor of expanded gaming, but the question is, does it mean anything?
Well, no, probably not. But that’s not going to keep the pro-casino forces from acting like it did.
By slim margins, voters in Worcester and Chicopee passed referendums asking whether they would approve locating a casino in their communities, with the final tallies coming down to 52-48 in Worcester and 51-49 in Chicopee. Meanwhile, in Pittsfield, voters made a seemingly more declarative statement—59 percent of them voted in favor of legalized casino gaming in the commonwealth.
“I think it’s huge,” Representative Brian Wallace of South Boston—the chief cheerleader for the Governor’s casino proposal—said, calling the Pittsfield results “overwhelming.”
As for Worcester and Chicopee, he admitted the winning margins were slim, but believes the pro-casino vote in those places would have been significantly stronger had the ballot question asked if voters were in favor of casinos in the state, not just their backyards.
Wallace says he plans to add the referendum results to his arsenal of pro-casino arguments, noting that he’s already spoken to legislators from the three towns, and intends on lobbying all of them based on the results before long.
“I spoke to a couple of them yesterday in session,” he told us yesterday. “A couple of them, they’re eyes were wide open and they were like, ‘Wow.'”
Not that we would be ones to doubt Wallace’s perception of his peers’ opthalmologic dilation, but based on a couple of calls we put into said representatives, it seems like he may be spinning more than his wheels with this tact.
“I take absolutely nothing from that vote,” says Representative Vincent Pedone of Worcester, a Democrat who, though he has no principled opposition to gaming, is not a fan of the casino legislation (he thinks three casinos is too many to have in the state).
“I thought it was a complete waste of time. It offered absolutely nothing. Most people I talked to didn’t even understand what they were voting for.”
Pedone points out that because Patrick’s bill has yet to be fully fleshed out in the state legislature, the ballot question received virtually no debate leading up to the vote. In sum, he believes voters were relatively uneducated on the subject
Representative Christopher Speranzo of Pittsfield—who is opposed to expanded gaming—echoed Pedone, saying, “There really hasn’t been a broad airing of the casino issue in Pittsfield.”
Even with that 60-40 split in Pittsfield, Speranzo said he and his fellow legislators from Berkshire County were unlikely to be moved by Tuesday’s vote.
“We were all opposed last time and I think, from the discussions I’ve had, it doesn’t seem to have changed many opinions out here.”
In other words, keep yawning.