Gambling Expansion Off Fast Track in Mass.

The state's $1-billion budget deficit will be the top priority.

By Lynne Snierson

Discussions about expanding gambling in Massachusetts have been moved off the fast track as the governor and legislators now will make closing the state’s $1-billion budget deficit their top priority. The talks had included plans for the installation of slot machines at racetracks (racinos) along with the construction of resort casinos in the state.

Reports out of the statehouse indicate that Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo (D) and Governor Deval Patrick (D) could not make a deal recently on the number of racinos and casinos as well as the best way to implement the plan. DeLeo told reporters that they will table the talks until the budget process is finished and that may not be until the end of June or the first of July. As recently as one month ago, Democratic leaders attended a retreat at the University of Massachusetts- Amherst to strategize on the expansion of gambling and other key issues.

Last summer, the bill to expand gambling died in legislative session when DeLeo, Patrick, and Senate President Therese Murray (D) could not agree on the number of racinos and resort casinos. DeLeo, who represents the district where Suffolk Downs is located, insisted that the three remaining racetracks in the state be given slots. Governor Patrick said he would allow slots to be installed at one racetrack and preferred three destination resort casinos.

According to State Senator Stanley Rosenberg (D), who was quoted on and is the point person of the gambling issue, Governor Patrick, DeLeo, and Murray still are not on the same page.
“Are we to going to have slots in the box or not? And if we are, are they going to be by competition or be designated licenses? That’s basically an issue they are discussing. When they resolve it, then they can present a proposal to the legislature,” Rosenberg said .

Officials of Suffolk Downs declined to comment on the latest developments when reached on the evening of April 6.