There has been a major change in the casino gambling debate, and the source of that change lies in the office of the speaker of the House of Representatives, Revere’s representative, Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop).
This week, DeLeo told the Journal that his long-standing reservation about full-scale casinos has softened because of the issue of jobs.
For the longest time, DeLeo has only favored slots at the tracks, in proposals known as racinos. At the same time, over the last several years of debates on expanded gaming, it is the speaker who has held the keys to expanded gaming’s success or failure.
Several years back, former Speaker Tom Finneran squashed the matter before it had an honest chance.
Last year, former Speaker Sal DiMasi put the kibosh on Governor Deval Patrick’s far-reaching casino gambling proposal.
Now, it looks like DeLeo may be the first speaker to warm up to the casino proposal, which could pave the way to having a casino complex at Suffolk Downs and Wonderland in Revere.
“Right now, I’m in the process of reviewing it and putting legislation together,” DeLeo told the Journal Tuesday. “I will tell you the biggest change I’ve made – after originally favoring slots only in previous debates – is the possibility of bringing casino gambling to Massachusetts in addition to slots.
“It probably makes more sense than strictly limiting it to slots,” he continued. “The job situation – both construction jobs and workers at the facilities – is the most important aspect to my reconsideration.”
DeLeo said he expects to file his legislation in six weeks or so. While he didn’t specify a time when debate would commence, many have speculated that would occur in January.
Others, however, noting that the state needs revenue badly, said it would probably happen this year.
DeLeo also seemed to favor bringing any gaming facility to Revere’s two tracks instead of somewhere else in the state. He said his concern is for the employees who live in the area.
“I’m concerned about that if we don’t do anything for them,” he said. “If we do this, the most important thing I can bring into the district is jobs…with good wages. I see it as an important economic engine for the area. Suffolk and Wonderland are two major places of employment.”
Finally, DeLeo stressed that he isn’t changing his mind on casinos only because of the bad economy.
“In good times, as well, I believe it would be a great revenue source for the state,” he said. “I’m thinking that it could spur other economic development as well.”