The future of gambling industry in the state of Massachusetts could be determined by voters ballot, as the question may be allowed by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court after the scheduled hearings.
Having in mind that this is an extremely high-profile case, it is not a surprise that it is all over the gambling news, covering all the details around casino deals, which are worth hundreds of millions of dollars and would affect extremely negatively the casino industry in the state.
This case is particularly important for the city of Springfield, which voted positively for the $800 million casino resort put forward by MGM Resorts.
Jeffrey Ciuffreda, president of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, commented: “The last hurdle would be this ballot initiative or Supreme Court decision.”
The current situation
According to the US gambling laws, the Massachusetts legislature allowed casino gambling back in 2011. Currently, one slots provider has license in Plainville.
The future of casino gambling in Massachusetts is at stake at the moment
• The high-profile case is closely addressed by all involved parties
• Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake
• The current Massachusetts gambling legislature was voted in 2011
Another potential license holder in Western Massachusetts is MGM, whereas in Eastern Massachusetts the battle for the only license is between Wynn Resorts and Mohegan Sun. Wynn wants to build a casino in Everett and Mohegan Sun is focused on Revere.
Despite the potential funds, employment and infrastructure opportunities for the state, there is still huge percentage of disapproval for the gambling industry in the region.
The group “Repeal the Casino Deal” seems to be one of the strongest opposers as it managed to collect more than the minimum 68,911 valid signatures enough to get the question on the November 2014 ballot, asking voters to revoke the current gambling law in the state.
The group was expecting to win the ballot repeal without court cases, but State Attorney General Martha Coakley, also a Democrat governor candidate, concluded that the question is unconstitutional.
Coakley commented that this repeal would “impair the implied contracts between the commission and gaming license applicants” and illegally impair the contracts between the two parties.
Naturally, the anti-casino activists appealed to the court, and they were not the only parties that are taking a stand on the issue, as voters, unions and businesses are also expressing their opinions.
After the oral arguments, the court will most probably rule before July 9, when is also the deadline for William F. Galvin, the Secretary of State, to prepare the future ballot.
Stephen Crosby, chairman of the state gambling commission, said in an official statement that it “has not and will not take a position on either the SJC proceedings or the repeal effort.”
Governor Deval Patrick on the other hand defended the current law and didn’t specifically comment on the repeal: “It’s a thoughtful bill being thoughtfully implemented, and I think done with great care. It will be good for the Commonwealth.”
John Ribeiro, the leader of “Repeal the Casino Deal”, explained the position of the campaign: “We recognized the flaws in the law and that it would be messy. Now you have Boston pitted against Revere, pitted against Everett.”
Furthermore: “You have Winthrop left out in the cold. You have other communities around the state that are in the same situation – they have no say. You can’t simplify it any more than the people should have a right to vote.”
On the contrary, Dan O’Connell, head of the business advocacy group Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, expressed the opposite opinion: “We’re concerned about changing the rules in the middle of the game.”
Additionally: “If this issue is rehashed once again on the ballot – a rather blunt-edged way to deal with a public policy issue — we don’t think that’s a good thing for the state’s reputation, and for a business-friendly climate of regulatory predictability.”