On the heels of two East Boston elected officials calling on the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to hold off granting gaming licenses until after the statewide ballot question is held in November, Mayor Martin Walsh joined the growing chorus last Thursday afternoon.
“Today, I will file a stay with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, requesting that they hold off on granting a gaming license for Region A until after the November election,” said Walsh. “We are facing an unprecedented situation in Massachusetts right now, particularly given the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision earlier this week.”
Walsh said from day one he has consistently advocated to have the voices of the people heard and that Boston residents deserve the right to vote on this matter, and the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has granted them that right.
“If the MGC chooses to go forward with granting a license, and the voters choose to repeal the gaming law in November, all of the parties involved risk losing significant time and millions of dollars for nothing,” said Walsh. “This has been a difficult process for everyone involved. I appreciate the work of the MGC. Whether I agreed with their decisions or not, I recognize the challenges they have faced and I appreciate their efforts.”
Last Tuesday, after the SJC ruled in favor of allowing a statewide ballot question to repeal the state’s gaming law, Representative Carlo Basile became the first Eastie elected official to ask the MGC to delay awarding gaming licenses in the state until after November.
“Last fall, the people of East Boston voted against allowing a casino in our backyards and I respect that decision. In November, our neighbors will head to the ballot box to decide whether casinos should be allowed anywhere in the Commonwealth,” said Basile. “I call upon the Gaming Commission to delay awarding licenses to any casinos until voters have had their say. We need to have stability in our communities as we deal with these important decisions. As we move toward November, let’s work together to make sure the discussion about repealing casinos are thoughtful, inclusive and neighborly.”
City Councilor Sal LaMattina who sent a letter to the MGC Wednesday urging them to delay granting licenses followed Basile.
“The Supreme Judicial Court’s decision to allow the repeal expanded gaming question on the ballot this November could potentially have a huge impact on my entire district, which includes East Boston, Charlestown, and the North End,” said LaMattina. “We’ve repeatedly asked for the chance to have referendums on both proposals and were refused those opportunities. This statewide referendum that was just approved will give all of us the chance to vote one last time and we’d like it to be as fair and transparent as possible. Therefore, I ask that the Gaming Commission please refrain from holding any other meetings or hearings until after the election.”
LaMattina said his constituents will now have to deal with another long casino campaign season and it’s not fair to have to deal with the decision making process as well, especially if it ends up being futile if the repeal question passes.
“It may or may not mean anything to you, but this is an issue that has haunted me for 6 years,” he said. “As much as I would like it to subside, it hasn’t. Ultimately, if expanded gaming is to come to Massachusetts, we all feel that it should hinge on the decision of the voters of the Commonwealth. Let the vote play out and then proceed with the awarding of licenses-that is, if the repeal referendum fails.”
John Ribeiro, chairman of Repeal the Casino Deal said, “Now that it’s clear the people will have a chance to vote yes to repeal casinos, smart leaders like Mayor Walsh see the wisdom in slowing the Gaming Commission’s rush to the slots table. The economy is growing, cranes are up in every skyline in Massachusetts, and jobs are coming back. The people of Massachusetts know we can do better and the people should be heard before any decisions are made.”
However, not everyone is happy with the current push to hold off awarding licenses until November.
Bill Mulrow, chairman of the board at Suffolk Downs said the workers there are dismayed by the growing rhetoric.
“On behalf of the family of workers at Suffolk Downs, we are dismayed by the approach the Mayor has chosen here in dealing with our tenant, Mohegan Sun Massachusetts, and its proposal to create jobs — many of which would undoubtedly go to Boston residents,” he said. “We have made a significant investment over the last several years to preserve jobs and to create opportunities for new ones while operating at a substantial deficit. Additional delays in the Gaming Commission’s licensing decision will put our operation and our workforce at risk and we urge the Commission to stick to its announced timeline.”
The New England Horsemen’s Benevolent Protection Association President Anthony Spadea and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association Chairman George Brown also disagreed with holding off awarding licenses.
“On behalf of the approximately 800 members of New England HBPA and the MTBA, we support the Massachusetts Gaming Commission maintaining it’s published timeline for the Region A license. Our members and the businesses that depend on Thoroughbred racing in this state should not be penalized with additional delays,” the groups said in a joint statement.
Mayor of Revere Dan Rizzo said while he has the utmost respect for Mayor Walsh and appreciates his concerns voters in Revere have come out twice in support a casino in the neighboring city.
“We have complied with all laws as set forth in the legislation and have adhered to all rules of the commission,” said Rizzo. “A timeline has been announced and they should stick with it. It’s also worth noting that two other licenses have been granted with full knowledge that there could be a ballot question — this is no different. Mohegan Sun has reached 11 other surrounding community agreements. I can see no reason for further delays.”