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Critics Protest, Mass. Lawmakers Talk Casino Bill

A coalition of gambling opponents is calling on lawmakers to oppose the state's latest gaming bill that would bring three casinos and a slot parlor to Massachusetts.

Religious leaders, social workers and gambling opponents rallied on the State House steps Tuesday to protest the bill that they say has been pushed by the state without a serious look at the economic and social costs to communities and individuals.

“We’re opposed to our state promoting the public policy of exploiting vulnerable people for their own benefit," said United to Stop Slots President Tom Larkin.

The rally came as House Democrats held a closed-door caucus to discuss the measure that is scheduled for debate on Wednesday. House Speaker Robert DeLeo said after the meeting that the bill is about creating thousands of jobs and producing hundreds of millions in revenue for the state.

DeLeo said he was confident of House passage, adding that members would consider any amendments that strengthen the bill.

If the bill becomes law, the anti-gaming coalition plans to launch a series of court-based appeals.

Meanwhile, a new study shows that Massachusetts residents continue to head to neighboring states to gamble.

The ongoing study from the Center for Policy Analysis at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth reports that in the past year, residents made 7 million visits to casinos and slot parlors in neighboring states.

The study also found visits from Massachusetts residents to Twin Rivers in Rhode Island have doubled in the last five years.

Casino supporters point to these statistics as a reason to back the gaming bill, in the hopes of keeping gambling revenue within the state.

With reporting by The Associated Press, WBUR's Steve Brown and Pippin Ross for WBUR

This program aired on September 13, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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