Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo Supports Casino and Slots Expansion

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, rekindling on what is sure to be a contentious issue, will outline his plan for expanded gambling on March 6th, 2010, stating that the state should allow both slot machines at horse racing tracks and resort-style casino facilities.

In a speech regarding job creation before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, DeLeo will propose that Massachusetts sell licenses to developers of casinos and slot machines. A portion of the slots and casino revenue would be alloted to a special fund that will help Massachusetts manufacturers with substantial investments, with the goal of helping struggling employers stay open and encourage others to invest in the state.

It was not clear how specific Speaker DeLeo will be regarding his gambling proposal. The speaker plans to sponsor a bill in the House within the next few weeks. His speech before the Chamber of Commerce promises to kick off talks on a contentious ssue that could dominate the spring discussions at the State Housem in the midst of another difficult budget and election year.

DeLeo-a Democrat from Winthrop who district includes two horse racing travks, Suffolk Downs in Boston and the Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere-has been a long longtime advocate of permitting slot machines at the horse racing tracks. He has indicated for weeks that he plans to include slot machines as part of the House's gaming bill.

But that will put him at odds with Governor Deval Patrick, who has been wary of slot machines and prefers resort-style casinos. However, Gov. Patrick has not said definitively that he would veto a gambling bill that allows slot machines at horse racing tracks.

Gov. Patrick's spokesman said on March 4th, 2010 that they would not comment on Speaker DeLeo's proposal because they had not seen the plan. Senate President Therese Murray has been open to expanded gaming but skeptical of slot machines at horse racing tracks, which opponents say do not help in creating new jobs. It was Gov. Patrick who first pushed for expanded gambling in 2007 as an option to get some of the revenue that supporters say that states with casino facilities, like Connecticut, get from gamblers in Massachusetts.

Gov. Patrick proposed constructing three casinos in the state, a plan that the governor said would produced $450 million in additional revenue, twenty thousand new jobs and $2 billion in economic activity. But the House Speaker at that time-Salvatore F. DiMasi, a staunch gaming critic-led the charge by which the House dismissed the plan, by a 108-46 vote in March 2008.

DiMasi had argued that casinos would just affect other tourists destinations in the state. Since then, Gov. Patrick has backed off from the plan, allowing lawmakers to take the lead in creating a new gaming proposal.

DeLeo's plan is another sure sign that DiMasi's resignation from the Massachusetts House has significantly changed the political landscape on Beacon Hill and improved the chances that casino gambling will be allowed in Massachusetts.