, Salem, MA


May 13, 2014

Watson: Court will rule on casino repeal effort


It is impossible to predict the SJC’s ruling, which must be issued by July 9 in order for the secretary of state to prepare the November ballots.

There is legal precedent for the court to permit the ballot question. That was the instrument that voters used in 2008 to close dog tracks.

There’s one other item that the SJC can bear in mind. Previous courts have ruled that ballot questions generally should proceed unless they possess reasonably evident flaws. That guideline allows for the biggest democracy, when possible.

Finally, the legislative process that created the casino-enabling law has always had the look and feel of an inside job. Legislators, casino developers and lobbyists invented and built the push for slots and casinos. There was little citizen clamor for those places prior to the politico-industry campaign, which spent $6.5 million just in the past two years lobbying for gambling interests. The Beacon Hill “hearings” and closed-door sessions — on casino matters — have not been democracy’s finest moment. Perhaps, the SJC can remove some of the politics in deciding this casino case.

Brian T. Watson is a Salem News columnist. Contact him at

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