Massachusetts House Defeats Slots Bill

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted April 5 to defeat a proposal adding 8,000 slot machines to the state's four racetracks, one of which is Suffolk Downs, the historic Thoroughbred facility in East Boston.

By a vote of 110-55, the House killed a bill that met approval in the Senate (26-9) last fall. Any measure of the kind was facing a veto stamp from likely 2008 presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney if it were to gain passage in both bodies.

The House did vote 141-13 to extend the out-of-state simulcast agreement at the tracks through the end of the year. The Senate approved the extension shortly after a 90-day temporary bill forged in December expired at midnight March 31, forcing three of the four tracks to close the next day.

Supporters of the bill say the gambling machines will save the industry's existing 6,000 jobs, and bring an estimated 4,000 new jobs and $350-500 million in revenue to an industry on its last legs as gamblers continue to flock to nearby casinos in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Opponents, including powerful House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, say the added social costs far outweigh any financial benefits.

Suffolk Downs has resumed simulcasting and is slated to open for live racing May 6.