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Massachusetts Legislators Considers Slots for State Racing Tracks

A considerable number of area legislators believe that permitting slot machines or casino gaming could be a sure way for the state of Massachusetts to hit the big time, relieving significant financial stress from the state. They stated that the reception on Beacon Hill are beginning to warm to the idea of expanded gambling and point to House Speaker Robert DeLeo's decision to schedule a hearing in September 2009 on the gaming measure as a good sign.

DeLeo, who became House Speaker earlier this year, has stated that he is willing to gaming bill than his predecessor, former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi. The new leadership in Beacon Hill, combined with the weak economy that has caused the state to produce revenue, may have changed the climate.

State Representative James Fagan, (Democrat-Taunton) said on July 25th, 2009 that the current economic situation in the state has caused a number of lawmakers who were previously hesitant to support gaming or mildly oppose to gaming to evaluate their positions.

Some state legislators say that a proposal permitting slot machines at the Massachusetts horse racing tracks could also be good for the area, allowing not horse racing tracks but dog racing tracks to stay afloat as well.

Throughout the past years of dropping attendance, Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park proprietor George Carney has advocated for expanded gambling in Massachusetts, a decision that would permit to set-up a slot machine parlor, or a full casino facility in Raynham.

Although officials from the surrounding area generally support Carney's cause, gambling proposals have gained little leverage in the past on Beacon Hill, especially in the House.

State Senator Marc Pacheco (Democrat-Taunton) and State Representative David Flynn (Democrat-Bridgewater), the Dean of the House of Representatives; have supported expanded gambling over the past several years. Flynn estimates that slot machines would produce a total of $400 million for the state in licensing fees.

The Raynham greyhound racing track, which supports hundreds of full and part-time workers, faces an uncertain future after voters in November approved a ballot referendum that will outlaw dog racing in Massachusetts by January 1st, 2009. Backers of the referendum stated that greyhound racing is a cruel sport that puts animals in danger.

Critics maintained that the dog are treated well and argued that the two dog racing tracks in the state are vital components of their host areas economies. Raynham selectman Joseph Pacheco said that the town currently earns $413,000 as a total percentage of the dog racing track's handle. The number was more than double that during the heyday of the racing facility.

Fagan said that in the current financial recession, state revenues for July are falling short of the projections. He said that he would not be surprise to see Governor Deval Patrick decide on another round budget cuts this fall.

Fagan added that although economic problems seem to be causing more officials to evaluate passing gambling legislation as a way to solve revenue problems, he realized that some of his colleagues in the House are still opposed to gambling proposals.

Legalized gaming has gained considerable leverage over the past few years in public opinion polls but a number of organizations such as the Massachusetts Council of Churches and the Massachusetts Family Institute have voiced their criticism to expanded gaming.


Thursday, 06 August 2009
Marissa Patterson