Massachusetts Panel to Study Expanded Gaming

Expanded gambling, including slot machines at racetracks, took a hit May 9 when the Masschusetts House voted against it, but legislators did establish a committee to make recommendations on the issue by the end of the year.

The Boston Globe reported that an Indian tribe and racetrack owners hoped the state's budget problems would convince lawmakers to allow casinos and slot machines.

House Speaker Thomas Finneran instead supported formation of the 17-member commission. The House approved the measure on a 101-51 vote.

''It's a giant issue,'' Rep. Arthur Broadhurst Jr. said. ''I'm hoping that this commission will take a hard look at it, and give us the ability to produce a bill that addresses all of our concerns.''

House members who had fought for expanded gambling denounced the commission as a sham and predicted that nothing will ever come of it, the newspaper reported. Five years ago, a similar panel said casino gambling in Massachusetts would hurt the state.

Massachusetts currently has two Thoroughbred tracks, Suffolk Downs and Brockton Fair; a Standardbred track, Plainridge Racecourse; and two Greyhound tracks, Raynham-Taunton and Wonderland. Racing legislation passed last year funneled more money back to the racing industry for purses.

The Masschusetts tracks compete with casino-style gambling in Connecticut and at Lincoln Greyhound Park in Rhode Island.