Massachusetts Casino Repeal Effort Will Be a Tough Fight

Massachusetts welcomes youThe Massachusetts Supreme Court has opened the door for residents of the Bay State to repeal the casino expansion bill that was passed in 2011. In June the Court ruled that a casino repeal measure could be placed on the November ballot and should be decided by the voters.

The question, now known as Question 3, will be on the November 4 ballot, which should be a strong turnout as Massachusetts voters will be electing a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, as well as choosing their nine delegates for the House of Representatives and a U.S. Senator.

Could cost MA millions

If the state’s residents do vote to repeal the bill it would be a major blow for the state which has invested millions in getting the casino industry off the ground, and seen a number of companies invest millions of their own as they jockeyed for one of the three casino licenses available.

“… the voters of Massachusetts may choose to abolish casino and slot parlor gambling and parimutuel wagering on simulcast greyhound racing, and doing so would not constitute a taking of property without compensation,” Justice Ralph D. Gants stated in his opinion. Gants went on to address the money already invested, saying, “The possibility of abolition is one of the many foreseeable risks that casinos, slot parlors, and their investors take when they choose to apply for a license.”

Support for casinos has waned over the past year, with a Boston Globe poll conducted in June showing the state nearly split on the matter, with 52% favoring leaving the bill as-is while 41% wanted repeal. Casino expansion was previously polling very favorably. An even more recent poll has support at 49% with the same 41% wanting repeal –undecided voters increased from 7% to 10% according to the Globe.

Even with an 8% to 11% lead the fight will be an extremely contentious and difficult one, and will likely hinge on voter turnout and which side can educate the 10% of the public that is undecided, and get their constituents to the ballot box.

Anti-casino groups lining up

Complicating matters will be the continued existence of multiple anti-casino groups which came into being to fight against casinos being approved in specific towns. These groups are already mobilized and will be extremely active in fighting for the repeal.

One such group is Repeal the Casino Deal from the Springfield area, who are said to be reorganizing to fight for the repeal. The group had some 200 volunteers collecting signatures to bring the matter to the ballot and according to the group’s Western Massachusetts organizer, Alan Cabot, who spoke with the Berkshire Gazette, these volunteers will now turn their attention towards a ground game to get Question 3 the necessary number of votes for repeal.

Another anti-casino group is Casino Free Milford/Casi-NO which resoundingly voted down a Milford casino. Casi-NO has already retooled their organization into a full-fledged political organization, called Citizens for Milford, and a visit to their Facebook page shows the group is advocating full repeal.

Both of these groups are highly organized and better funded than they would have you believe.

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