Romney Threatens Slots Veto

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he would veto any legislation seeking to expand gambling in the state. The stance marks a significant change in position since Romney's election to office in 2002.

Romney had been on record in support of the possibility of both casinos and slots parlors during an unsuccessful attempt to unseat U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 1994. As governor, Romney had proposed allowing slots on a trial basis as recently as 2003 to help cure a $3-billion budget deficit.

''If someone were to bring forward a proposal (in the Legislature) it is not something I would support given our economic circumstances and the social costs associated with gaming," Romney wrote in a letter to the editor published in The Boston Globe Sept. 16.

However, according to a separate report in the Globe, the turnabout comes amid mounting pressure from anti-gambling activists in key presidential primary states, specifically Iowa, where Romney is expected to present a keynote speech at a fundraiser Oct. 29.

Romney's letter was written in response to a Sept. 5 Globe story in which members of conservative groups in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Florida threatened to withhold support if Romney were to sign gambling legislation.

Romney is widely known to be considering a run for the Republican Party nomination in 2008.

Observers say a Romney veto, requiring two-thirds of both chambers to override, would pose a significant hurdle to gambling supporters. Historically, gambling bills have had trouble finding a simple majority.

Romney's threats came as leaders in the Massachusetts Senate prepare to push for two new casinos, and for the establishment of roughly 3,500 machines slot machines at each of the state's four struggling racetracks.

State Senator Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton, the legislation's co-sponsor, is worried about the viability of current gaming venues.

'We're in a non-competitive situation with regard to what other neighboring states can offer in the way of gambling and entertainment." Pacheco said.

"This can be rectified with the addition of expanded gaming opportunities of which I was under the impression--from the governor's previous statements--that he would look favorably upon."