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Casino Roundup: Talks Continue, But Compromise Remains Elusive02:02
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House and Senate leaders still hope for a compromise on casino gambling, but both sides appear to remain deadlocked as the legislative session draws to a close.

Senate President Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick remain opposed to slot machines at racetracks, something House Speaker Robert DeLeo has insisted upon.

The casino bill was the focus of two closed-door meetings late Monday. First, Murray and DeLeo met with Patrick in his office. Then, Murray and DeLeo huddled with the Democratic members of the conference committee for about an hour, with no resolution.

Although negotiations have been testy, DeLeo says there's hope in the fact that both sides are still talking.

The difficulty of reaching a compromise comes in part from just how adamant — and public — each side has been about their positions.

"Would I definitively state yes, that we're going to have a bill by the end of the week, I probably couldn't say that, but I think we're, we're giving it our best shot," DeLeo said.

Spokesmen for both the House and Senate say talks resumed Tuesday morning, but DeLeo's tepid tone has many State House observers wondering if a resolution is possible.

The difficulty of reaching a compromise comes in part from just how adamant — and public — each side has been about their positions.

Speaker DeLeo has said from the beginning that the casino bill is a jobs bill, and he has said putting slots at racetracks would put people back to work right away. Two of the four racetracks in the state are in DeLeo's district, so it's personal for him, and he's doing what any state legislator would do — trying to bring jobs back to the district. For DeLeo, backing away from slots would be construed as a huge defeat.

On the Senate side, there's simply not a big appetite for slot machines. Most senators' districts would not directly benefit, and Senate President Murray contends the votes just aren't there for so-called "racinos."

If this bill goes off the rails this week, there will be a perception that the Legislature frittered away this session and has no new jobs to show for it.

Beyond the question of slot machines, however, this bill is still an important one for all state lawmakers. In this sagging economy, there's a huge cry for jobs. DeLeo, Murray and Gov. Patrick all point to jobs as the reason for supporting casinos in the first place — it's rare to hear mention of licensing fees or the state's cut from a casino take.

If this bill goes off the rails this week, there will be a perception that the Legislature frittered away this session and has no new jobs to show for it. That's a perception lawmakers running for re-election this fall would prefer voters not have, since their challengers would likely hammer away at it.

But the deadline, of course, is Saturday. If lawmakers are close to a deal, they could suspend the rules and extend debate beyond the midnight deadline. It's legislative rules, not the state Constitution, that they would be suspending.

The impasse bodes well for casino opponents who saw both branches overwhelmingly support the legalization of casinos. Just last week, opponents urged lawmakers to declare a compromise unreachable and move on to other matters.

Meanwhile, the casino bill is taking most of the attention away from other major bills that still need final action, and that is not sitting well with many, including Gov. Patrick. CORI reform, economic development and health care all appear to remain in a holding pattern until the casino bill is resolved.

This program aired on July 27, 2010.

Steve Brown Twitter Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's State House reporter.

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