SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 16, 2011

Local reps say gaming bill to bring jobs, money

The Massachusetts House and Senate approved a bill yesterday to allow up to three resort-style casinos and one slots parlor in the Bay State, bringing resolution to an issue that has been discussed on Beacon Hill for decades.

Local lawmakers who voted for the bill say it will create thousands of much-needed jobs and capture revenue that was otherwise going to casinos in neighboring states.

"Most importantly, it's a jobs bill," said Rep. John Keenan, D-Salem.

The casinos will bring blue-collar jobs — a sector of the economy that needs a boost, Keenan said — including jobs in construction and service.

"Good entry-level jobs in the casinos that provide an opportunity for advancement," he said.

"There are going to be issues in terms of gambling and addiction, but I feel we've made a significant effort in putting money toward that," Keenan said.

The House voted 118-33 in favor of the bill yesterday afternoon; the Senate quickly followed, voting 23-14.

The bill was headed to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk late yesterday; he had indicated he was in favor of the concept.

"I'm glad the debate is over," said Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers. "Primarily, I'm not a huge fan of casino gambling, but when you have a state where you can literally walk from any home in the commonwealth to a place that sells a scratch ticket, it's kind of hypocritical to say we ought not to have gambling in the state."

The compromise bill that passed yesterday had been negotiated by a six-member panel of lawmakers, charged with forging consensus between the House and Senate.

The final version of the bill includes a Senate amendment that bars state lawmakers and local officials from working in the casino industry for at least one year after leaving office.

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