By John Lynds
For the Transcript
Senator Anthony Petruccelli, who represents the district most likely to host a full-scale, resort-style casino, was one of five senators who abstained from taking part in a vote by a key legislative committee supporting casino gaming in the state.
The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, of which Petruccelli is a member, voted overwhelmingly to support Speaker Robert DeLeo’s gaming bill. There were 12 legislators in favor, two that were opposed and five that abstained.
Petruccelli said the reason he abstained is that he hasn’t fully digested DeLeo’s bill or the impact it will make on his constituents. However, he applauded the Speaker.
“I applaud the Speaker’s ability to move this important bill forward and make it about job creation – something the Commonwealth desperately needs in these tough economic times,” said Petruccelli. “Also, this is the House’s version and I’m sure it will be a slightly different bill after amendments are added and the House votes on the bill.”
After a House vote, the bill will head over to the Senate were it will most likely receive another transformation. It’s here Petruccelli will be able to make his imprint on the bill.
A few weeks ago, Petruccelli said he’d support a casino at Suffolk Downs Racetrack, but only with strict conditions.
First, he’d like to give East Boston residents the power, through a host community referendum vote, to tell the state whether or not they want a casino here.
Second, Petruccelli wants an infrastructure improvement commitment from Suffolk Downs’ ownership to the tune of $50-$100 million to ensure the Route 1A corridor can handle the traffic a casino may pose in his district.
Last week, DeLeo (D-Winthrop) announced his expanded gaming proposal aimed at creating jobs and stimulating economic growth throughout the Commonwealth.
“The legislation I’m proposing to you today is a jobs bill,” said DeLeo. “It creates a new sector of our economy that will create jobs and help keep our residents employed.”
Pointing towards the creation of construction jobs as well as permanent jobs at gaming facilities, DeLeo said the bill will generate long-term employment opportunities for the people of Massachusetts.
“This bill creates long-term jobs through the creation of two resort casinos,” DeLeo said. “It is a balanced approach that maximizes the benefit to Massachusetts. It helps our economy by directly creating construction, hotel and service industry jobs.”
To ensure ample gaming development, which will maximize jobs as well as revenue, the bill, requires casino applicants to commit to spending a minimum of $500 million in capital investments in order to receive a license.
“This means they will have to build a resort hotel as well as other amenities,” said DeLeo. “Over the long term, these resorts will also employ thousands of our residents.”
In addition to permitting two resort casinos, Speaker DeLeo’s proposal will allow up to 750 slot machines at Suffolk Downs and each of the state’s other three racetracks to grow and retain jobs at these venues while bringing much-needed revenue to the state.
“My concern is for the workers who struggle every day to make a living,” said DeLeo. “These jobs are so important because they support families. Until resort casinos come online, the revenue generated from these facilities will go to help our cities and towns.” –
At last week’s press conference at the State House DeLeo went on to outline the bill’s use of gaming revenue and licensing fee revenue to invest in job growth programs and support the state’s cities and towns.
“We will reinvest the funds we garner through gaming licenses in our state,” said DeLeo. “We will distribute this money to fund manufacturing, workforce partnerships, tourism and local capital projects. A portion of the annual gaming revenue, in turn, will go towards local aid, the rainy day fund and education.”
Remaining cognizant of the need to update and strengthen laws to safeguard against any improprieties, DeLeo highlighted provisions that would enhance the state’s ability to crackdown on wrongdoings that may arise as a result of gaming.
“We have taken steps to create a strong regulatory structure to oversee this new field and strengthen the Attorney General’s ability to enforce the law,” he said.
The Speaker also acknowledged the potential social costs of gaming while stressing the fact that unemployment puts a similar strain on lives and detailing the bill’s funding of addiction programs.
“I am aware of the concerns surrounding addiction and gambling,” said DeLeo. “For this reason, the bill devotes significant resources to gambling addiction programs. With that said, I say once again that this bill is aimed at the social costs of joblessness, which weaken our society and imperil our families.”