Massachusetts Gaming Vote Still Possible

A Massachusetts lawmaker said gaming could be up for a vote before year's end.

Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo said Feb. 2 House lawmakers could vote on legislation to expand gambling before the end of the year—the surest signal yet that casinos or slot machines may be coming to the state.

DeLeo said the only question is the timing of a gambling debate. He said he’s not sure the House could take up any casino or slots proposals during its budget debate in April or May, but may be able to debate and vote on gaming legislation before the end of the year.

“I really have to reach out to the members to see if there is really an appetite, but I would say hopefully this year,” DeLeo said after a meeting with Senate President Therese Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick.

Patrick last year proposed licensing three casinos in Massachusetts, but the plan ran into stiff opposition from DeLeo’s predecessor, former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who resigned from the powerful post under an ethics cloud. DeLeo has been more open to the idea of expanded gambling.

In 2006 DeLeo, who has two racetracks in his district—Suffolk Downs and Wonderland Greyhound Park--broke with DiMasi and voted in favor of a bill to allow the state’s four racetracks to install up to 2,000 slot machines. On Feb. 2, DeLeo conceded he had a “parochial” interest in backing the bill, but as speaker would also be open to considering casinos.

“I think I’m sort of more in favor of slots at the racetracks, and the governor is at the casino end, but the art of compromise is what this building is all about,” DeLeo said.

Patrick said casinos aren’t at the top of his agenda, but could be part of the overall mix to help the state regain its fiscal footing. “I personally, and those in my administration, thought this was a good idea when we proposed it, and we still think it’s a good idea,” he said. “I’m not going to propose it if I think it’s going to lose.”