Gaming Debate: Job Creation Rightfully takes Priority

With the House version of the expanded gambling bill already passed, the state Senate has now taken up the measure for discussion.

That discussion is taking place right now and will apparently last the week. A vote on the Senate measure will come at the beginning of next week.

Senator Anthony Petruccelli, our man on Beacon Hill, believes the Senate bill will pass. He said his colleagues in the Senate are largely for the bill, which is perceived as a jobs and investment measure.

Experts indicate tax revenues for the state from three operating casinos and a slot parlor could be as much as $600 million a year or at the very least, $300 million a year and that licensing fees could be as much as $300 million as soon as they are made available for competitive purchase.

In addition, the total investment in physical plant required by the legislation would bring $1.5 billion in total construction for the gambling facilities in a two to three year period.

As many as 15,000 jobs could be created. Half of that number would be sufficient for a great success in the down economy we are experiencing.

Suffolk Downs, located in East Boston and Revere, may very well become a casino and horseracing complex. The bill requires that if a going track receives a license for a casino, it must retain the racing aspect of its operation. The legislation mandates a referendum will be held on the matter to determine its acceptance in the host communities.

That referendum would be in East Boston and in Revere as we are the host cities.

This referendum would determine local sentiment at the time an application for license has been made.

The same would be done in host cities in the two other regions in the state where casino licenses will be issued.

The tab for the referendum will be paid for by the license applicant or applicants, also as part of the expanded gambling legislation.

Senator Petruccelli will be voting for the measure.

He indicated that the majority of his colleagues in the Senate will be voting for the expanded gambling measure.

Opponents of expanded gambling are now banding together for a last stand fight claiming the economic benefits generated by casino gambling do not outweigh the social liabilities.

With the state Lottery the largest generator of cash for the state and its cities and towns, the opponents claim that expanded gambling is not worth it is considered specious.

Legal expanded gambling will wipe out nearly all forms of remaining illegal gambling in this state, experts say. And they are right. The Lottery erased the illegal numbers pool that flourished here for decades.

Some people and families will be hurt by casino gambling. This is inevitable.

However the need for jobs and investment and for added revenues to the state treasury far outweigh the full extent of the added social ills that will be generated.

Look for the Senate to pass the bill and then its on to Governor Deval Patrick for his signature – and then – for better or worse – we enter a new era with three casinos and a slots parlor in Massachusetts.

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