State Rep.: Casino legislation is progressing

As Gov. Deval Patrick seems to be in the mood to sink the casino gambling ship, others are working behind the scenes to make sure it stays afloat.

State Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein (D-Revere) was tapped earlier this month to be one of six members of a carefully selected state legislative conference committee charged with hammering out a compromise expanded gaming bill.

She told the Journal on Monday that the committee would resume meetings this week, and that she is optimistic.

However, she said that the rules of the committee prevent her from speaking publicly right now about the specifics.

“We’re making progress,” she said. “We’re meeting again this week and I’m optimistic. When it’s all over, I can talk more about the specifics, but right now I can say we’re progressing.”

Reinstein added that she is getting boatloads of e-mails from people in areas like Hopkinton and Milford who are adamantly against casinos and expanded gaming.

“They’re e-mailing me and asking me to support everything our district doesn’t want,” she said. “All weekend I just got barraged.”

Hopes were high across the board when the conference committee began meetings last week.

One of the big hurdles has been the differing opinion on slot machines at existing racetracks.

The House and House Speaker Bob DeLeo (D-Winthrop) passed a bill that would allow slots in the interim – that is – until such time as a full resort casino could be licensed, permitted and built. Reinstein is also an ardent supporter of that plan.

Locally, it would mean Suffolk Downs owners would inherit slots for both its facility at Suffolk Downs and Wonderland Dog Track.

The Senate version of the expanded gaming bill does not include slots, and Gov. Patrick is also against that plan.

Last week, DeLeo told the Journal that he could not be persuaded to change his mind on the slots issue, saying that it would be too important in preserving jobs and bringing quick local aide revenue to cities and towns.

“And I just can’t be persuaded – as the governor and others may have trouble being persuaded about having the slots – I can’t be persuaded that we shouldn’t have the slots,” he said.

That prompted Gov. Patrick to declare to the Boston media late last week – while the conference committee was meeting – that expanded gaming might be dead this year.

It has sparked some bitter feelings behind the scenes among legislators and the governor – and at a key point in the upcoming gubernatorial election. No one is saying anything publicly at the moment, but

Reinstein did say it was disappointing to the committee to hear such proclamations while they were in the midst of their work.

“I’m disappointed in his comments; I really am,” said Reinstein. “We’re not paying attention to that. We’re concentrating on the job we have to do.”

That job, however, will have to get done this week, most likely. The deadline for having the governor’s signature on a bill is July 31st – just nine days away.

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