Pro-gambling forces for years have argued that Massachusetts is losing out in the casino sweepstakes and forcing its residents to travel outside the state’s borders to place their wagers. On Wednesday, the tide will begin to turn as the first facility to serve gamblers under the state’s 2011 casino law is set to throw open its doors in Plainville, a day after New Bedford voters go to the polls and decide whether that city will compete against Brockton for the last remaining commercial casino license. House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s ascension in 2009 cracked the door wide open for casino proponents and Massachusetts is now about to begin learning about the advantages and disadvantages of expanded gaming. While proponents have touted new jobs and tax revenues, critics of casinos have warned that gambling addiction problems will grow and take their toll on families. Plainridge Park Casino’s opening comes two days after Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey lay out plans to address another type of addiction – recommendations from an opioid working group are due out on Monday.
The milestone in the state’s casino era headlines the upcoming week, as pressure mounts on a six-member conference committee working on a $38.1 billion budget. There are just 11 days remaining before the dawn of the fiscal year that they’re budgeting for. An interim budget is in the works to keep the state’s bills paid while talks continue. Last year, when Gov. Deval Patrick saw that negotiators might not strike a deal on time, he filed a one-month, $4.6 billion budget on June 23 and lawmakers promptly passed it. Administration and Finance Secretary Kristen Lepore said Friday the administration likely plans to file a two-week interim budget on Monday and hopes that it will be passed and signed into law by June 29.
An early retirement program sought by Gov. Charlie Baker drew far fewer applicants than expected and Baker this week wouldn’t say whether layoffs are likely, saying only that “we’re in pretty good shape.” He added, “We still have some work to do to figure out the close of fiscal ’15 and the opening of fiscal ’16 and by the way you know we don’t have a budget yet from the House and Senate. They’re still in a conference committee so we don’t know exactly what the sort of entirety of this thing is going to look like until they conference that out and send it to us.” Baker will have ten days to review the budget, expected to authorize about $38.1 billion in spending, before signing it and announcing any amendments and vetoes.
For Henry Epp’s conversation with State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy about the week ahead on Beacon Hill, click the audio player above.