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The Slots Gaming Issue in Massachusetts

On May 16th, 2009, as legislators scramble to look for new revenues, casino gaming-declared finished just a year ago-is seeing its fortunes in the rise again, helped by an important change in leadership on Beacon Hill and the state's need for more funds. Operators of the Mohegan Sun casino facility in the state of Connecticut plan to open an office on Main Street in Palmer to introduce themselves in the area and help build support for a possible destination casino.

The Mohegan Indian Tribe has signed a fifty-year lease on 152 acres in Palmer with the hope that the state's legislators will finally give the go signal to casino gaming. Mohegan Sun chief executive Jeff Hartmann said that they believe that if gaming is introduced to the state they would be able to go into the market as the most well-known gambling organization on the East Coast. Aside from that, the owners of Massachusetts' dog and horse racing tracks are also looking at different options on how to stay afloat like convincing state to permit them to offer slot machines.

For dog racing tracks like Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere, the prospect of slot machines is particularly attractive since voters approved a ballot question to ban greyhound racing in the state at the end of the year. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is still hoping to build a casino facility in Middleborough under a federal law that allows Indian tribes to enter the gaming industry. One main reason for the optimism is the new House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a Democrat from Winthrop, who has the Wonderland and Suffolk racing tracks in his district.

Unlike former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who dismissed a gaming proposal by Governor Deval Patrick to license three resort-style casinos in the state last year, DeLeo support expanded gambling-although he prefers placing slot machines in existing racing tracks first. Despite losing their most vocal supporter in Salvatore DiMasi, gaming critics are not giving up. A spokesperson for the group Casino Free Massachusetts, Laura Everett, said that they expect their officials to take a good look on this issue.

She added that while casino gaming may look good in the short term, it does not solve the problem on how they will fund important state services. But even a short term solution could prove difficult to resist as the state deals with its worst budget deficit. Profit estimates continue to drop down, forcing legislators to make cuts while also imposing tax increases. Compared to both of those difficult and unpopular options, casino licensing fees and gaming tax revenues could influence enough support on Beacon Hill-especially as Massachusetts residents continue to play outside of the state.


Monday, 08 June 2009
Marissa Patterson