A ballot question authorizing a slots parlor at the former Suffolk Downs horse racing track was properly certified for this November's ballot, according to the Supreme Judicial Court, which on Tuesday rejected the claims of plaintiffs who sought to have the question disqualified.
Ruling in Bogertman v. Attorney General, the high court rejected the assertion that the initiative petition should be disqualified from the ballot under the constitution's "local matters exclusion."
"The initiative petition does not run afoul of the local matters exclusion where the second slots parlor license it proposes could potentially be awarded to a site in many localities, even if it were most likely that it would be awarded to a site near Suffolk Downs," the court wrote.
If approved, the question could open the state up to a second slots parlor.
Plainridge Park Casino in Plainville was the first expanded gambling facility to open under a 2011 law that authorized a single slots parlor and three resort casinos. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has issued licenses for casinos to be located in Everett and Springfield. The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, meanwhile, is forging ahead with plans to build a tribal casino in Taunton.
The court also rejected the claim that the question should not have been certified because it is "substantially the same" as a matter that appeared on the ballot in either of the two preceding biennial state elections. The plaintiffs had argued Question 3 in 2014, which called for a ban on casinos and slot parlors, was substantially the same as the proposed 2016 ballot question.
Attorney Matthew Cameron represented the plaintiffs and Jeffrey King and Hayley Trahan-Liptak submitted a brief on behalf of Eugene McCain, who filed the initiative petition authorizing but not requiring the gaming commission to award one additional category 2 slots parlor license for a location that "shall be at least 4 acres large, and shall be adjacent to, and within 1500 feet of, a race track, including the track, grounds, paddocks, barns, auditorium, amphitheatre and/or bleachers, if any, where a horse racing meeting may physically be held, which race track shall have hosted a horse racing meeting, provided that said location is not separated from said race track by a highway railway."
— Michael P. Norton/SHNS