Three of Malden's state legislators tentatively support a revived casino bill that Massachusetts lawmakers are expected to debate as they return from summer break this week, saying they feel the bill – while not perfect – will bring both short- and long-term employee opportunities to the commonwealth.
A joint committee of the Legislature has crafted a bill that would permit three casinos in three regions of the state, and a single slot parlor with 1,250 machines.
Through the bill, all state revenue from the slot parlor would be transferred to a local aid fund, while a quarter of the revenue realized from the three casinos would be reserved for local aid.
The remaining casino revenue would be distributed to various funds and organizations. For example: 2 percent would go to the Massachusetts Cultural Council; 10 percent to the state's rainy day fund; and 10 percent to debt reduction. The bill also establishes a state subcommittee on addiction services, and a public health trust fund that will receive 5 percent of the state's casino revenues.
Sen. Katherine Clark:
Sen. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, told Patch that she's leaning in favor of the bill.
"I think we have never needed jobs and revenue for the state more than we do now," Clark said. "I am, however, still reviewing the 155-page bill with a real focus on how the different revenue streams are being designated and trying to get the back up dollar amounts for those."
The debate over expanded gambling in Massachusetts came about due in large part to a sluggish economy and eventual recession that depressed state revenues and, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, led to over $3 billion in budget cuts and savings.
State Rep. Chris Fallon
“I think there's more positives than negatives with this bill,” State Rep. Chris Fallon, D-Malden, said. “The positives are: I am desperate to create jobs...and put people back on a payroll so they can pay income tax to the department of revenue, along with the licensing fees with the casinos – these are the immediate positives.”
Fallon also identified some long-range positives, saying a city like Malden may see some increased revenues from traffic mitigation fees imposed on a nearby casino.
The representative also identified some negatives, including the creation of a “whole new bureaucracy” to regulate the casinos and the potential to exacerbate gambling addictions.
“I'll openly admit to you I am not (personally) familiar with gaming addiction...(though) everyone should be sensitive to it,” he said. “This bill is certainly going to increase funding - and I think its going to help us with the variety of funding - for a variety of mental health programs.”
State Rep. Paul Donato
“The most important thing to do to help our constituents is jobs,”State Rep. Paul Donato, D-Medford, said, adding there are estimates of anywhere between 7500 to 15,000 jobs that could be created.
“I'm not sure how they'll be broken up – I think that the first jobs are going to be jobs in the construction industry, of course. And that's good, but that's temporary, because as soon as the casinos are built, those jobs will naturally be gone.
“But, that will invoke a different kind of growth, the growth around the casino, and that may mean additional labor jobs that we hope will be accomplished – people working in the casinos themselves, in the new restaurants that are going to be out there, and so on.”
Donato, who voted against a casino bill that came before the house four years ago, said that the previous bill contained inadequate provisions to foster economic growth around such a development.
“It was a different economic time,” he added. “I don't think we were ready, in the commonwealth, to embrace casino gambling.”
Rep. Stephen Smith, D-Everett, was unavailable for comment.
In a press release, the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling “commended the Massachusetts State Legislature for including key provisions to address the serious issue of problem gambling in its latest bill that would expand gambling in the Commonwealth.”
Melrose Patch Editor Daniel DeMaina contributed to this report.