, Salem, MA


May 13, 2014

Watson: Court will rule on casino repeal effort


But I think that wouldn’t be the case, because most businesses don’t continuously require the sort of law enforcement, judicial, health system, monitoring and regulatory involvement that gambling enterprises do. And most businesses don’t create addicts or thrive on dysfunctional behavior. Even Coakley herself, in June 2009, testifying before a Senate committee, tacitly acknowledged that casinos and slots parlors are unique among businesses. She said that their introduction into the state would require the government to strengthen investigatory, regulatory, auditing, money laundering, wiretapping and criminal conspiracy laws.

Attorney Bean also argued that casino developers have been fully aware of the long-standing petition effort and well aware, therefore, that their applications and expenditures are speculative. Furthermore, he emphasized that the economic merits — to the state — of casinos are highly debated and that because there are strong, unresolved policy disagreements about gambling as a development strategy, it would be most appropriate for voters statewide to weigh in on the issue.

The attorney general’s argument, presented by Assistant Attorney General Peter Sacks, is that the state owes a review of and decision on the developers’ applications. However, the state, he said, would be permitted to reject every application if it found that the deleterious effects of the proposed casinos were unacceptable.

Interestingly, Coakley’s legal position currently seems sort of casino-neutral. Yet, she could easily, legally, have ruled the petition in order in the fall. That she didn’t is puzzling, unless she was influenced by political dynamics.

Carl Valvo, the attorney presenting on behalf of casino advocates, emphasized their belief that the casino-enabling legislation strikes a balance between the welfare of the citizenry and the business needs of the casinos.

We could certainly debate that point, but I thought that that line of reasoning was not germane to whether the ballot question is constitutional.

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