The call for the referendum came during what has turned out to be extremely contentious debates in several communities where resort-style casinos have been proposed, as the old adage that everyone likes casinos except in their own back yard proved quite true.
As part of the law each potential host community was allowed to vote on whether they wanted a casino in their community.
Communities such as Milford, Foxboro, Palmer and East Boston, rejected the proposed casinos (some by 2/1 margins), while Springfield (where MGM has received the only resort-casino license awarded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission thus far), Everett, and Revere passed referendums that would allow casinos to be built in their community.
Opponents of the gaming expansion, led by Attorney General and Gubernatorial contender Martha Coakley, saw the public outcry as a rallying cry to petition for a repeal of the gaming expansion bill, and the Supreme Court has decided that this is an issue that the citizens of Massachusetts should decide.
The Massachusetts legislature passed brick & mortar gaming expansion in 2011, which was signed by Governor Deval Patrick (the governor vetoed a similar bill in 2010) approving three separate resort-style casinos, one in each of three created regions in the state. In addition to the resort-style casinos, the bill also allowed for a single slots parlor license, which has since been awarded to Plainridge Race Course in Plainville, Massachusetts.
A repeal of the law would see years and untold millions of dollars flushed down the toilet
Reactions to the ruling
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said he respected the ruling in a statement on the Mass Gaming website.
“The Massachusetts Gaming Commission respects the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court to allow the citizens of the Commonwealth to vote on the repeal of expanded gaming in November. As the Commission has demonstrated in the past, we have the flexibility to achieve progress in the licensing and regulatory process even in an atmosphere of uncertainty and we will continue to do so. Although the Commission has not taken a position on the repeal; we are committed to implementing the law as it currently exists in a manner that is participatory, transparent and fair.”
The AGA was a bit more sour on the ruling, and stated its intentions to make sure Massachusetts residents understood the issue before the upcoming referendum vote.
“While it’s up to Massachusetts to decide whether or not to welcome the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenues gaming will bring to the Commonwealth, the AGA will ensure that voters have the facts about our industry instead of tired stereotypes. Gaming positively affects communities by creating thousands of jobs paying well above the minimum wage, helping small businesses grow and contributing millions of dollars in vital revenues for public services, such as education and safety. Massachusetts could soon discover what communities across the nation already know: that gaming serves as valued community partners and as one component of a strategic, multifaceted economic development plan.”
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