Casino opponents seek ballot question to repeal gaming act
A coalition of gambling opponents is proposing a referendum question on next year's ballot that would repeal the state's Expanded Gaming Act.
"Most citizens believe state government should not be partnering with powerful gambling interests to promote casino gambling in our communities," John Ribeiro of Winthrop, chairman of the new group, Repeal the Casino Deal, said in a statement. "Government's promotion of casinos represents the wrong direction for Massachusetts. It's a bad deal for citizens."
Ten certified voters acting on behalf of the group have petitioned the attorney general to approve the wording of the proposed ballot question. If the wording is approved, proponents of the repeal will have to gather 68,911 certified signatures to have the proposal put on the ballot for the statewide gubernatorial election in November 2014.
The Expanded Gaming Act allows the state's Gaming Commission to license up to three resort casinos and a single slots parlor. The commission is on track to issue the slot parlor license by the end of this year and two of the three casino licenses in April 2014, well before the vote would be taken.
Lagging is the Southeastern Massachusetts casino license, which would not be issued until the end of November 2014.
The act was passed and signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick in November 2011.
"One week later, a group of citizens opposed to the law filed a petition with the Secretary of State's office seeking to repeal it," the new coalition says on its website. "Our bid was denied by the Attorney General's office due to appropriations language that was inserted into the bill. We remain undaunted and are continuing to plan for the 2014 election cycle."
Among the 10 petitioners was Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, who said in a statement:
"Casinos are not an economic development strategy. They have a detrimental impact on quality of life. They drain the tax base, requiring more and more local expenditures and services to counter their impact. ... Putting the question of casinos to the Massachusetts electorate is the right thing to do."
Other petitioners include Mark Gottlieb, executive director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law; former state Sen. Susan Tucker of Andover; Steven Abdow of The Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts; and Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute.
Before passage of the gaming act, statewide polls — including several conducted by the Center for Policy Analysis at UMass Dartmouth — consistently showed at least 55 percent of voters favored casino gaming.