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Raynham Vies For A Stake In Proposed Mass. Gambling Business04:44
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Now it's the Senate's turn. State senators this week are expected to begin debate on the House-passed casino bill, although casino foes may utilize some Senate rules to delay a final vote until next week. The expected passage of the bill could have a dramatic impact on communities that may host a gambling facility.

Bringing Jobs To Raynham

About 100 or so people watched muted TV screens in the clubhouse of Raynham Park on a recent Saturday afternoon. The racing simulcast parlor used to be known as the Raynham-Taunton Dog Track, but a vote in 2008 put a permanent end to greyhound racing in Massachusetts.

In its heyday, the clubhouse and an adjacent grandstand were filled with a few thousand people, many wagering on the live racing.

On this day, there were plenty of places to sit in the half empty, relatively quiet clubhouse. Patrons, mostly men, place bets on races from dog and horse tracks from around the country. Those races are shown via closed circuit, on those TV monitors in the clubhouse.

Raynham Park owner George Carney converted his dog track to a simulcast parlor in the hopes that someday the state would allow slot machines.

The expected passage of the bill could have a dramatic impact on communities that may host a gambling facility.

"The only thing I can say is this, we'll try to make it work no matter how it comes out," Carney said.

"It" being the bill to expand casino gambling in Massachusetts. At 83 years of age, Carney said his main concern is his employees.

"At my stage of the game, it's not the biggest thing in the world one way or the other, but it is a major thing for the people that work here," he said.

At its peak, the dog track employed 800 people. Now, Carney said, he has 218 full- and part-timers on the payroll. He's betting the gambling proposal before the Legislature can deliver more jobs to his facility.

Jobs are a priority for Raynham town leaders as well. Selectman Don McKinnon wants Carney to win the one and only slot parlor license called for in the legislation.

"The slots would cater to the same quality of training as the track did, which are people parking vehicles, custodial type care and things of this nature," McKinnon said. "There's nothing of a negative nature about that employment. So, the jobs would be there for our people if they had the slots."

About 100 or so people watch muted TV screens in the clubhouse of Raynham Park. (Steve Brown/WBUR)
About 100 or so people watch muted TV screens in the clubhouse of Raynham Park. (Steve Brown/WBUR)

Carney said he could get a slot parlor up and running in very little time. But, he's not ruling out going for a full casino license.

"I hope I'm not forced to go into that secondary position. That would only be if I had no choice after the first position failed. But my first concern would be to have the slots at the track here," Carney said.

Carney has had talks with groups, including the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe and Delaware North, owners of the Boston Bruins. Raynham Park's location, not far from Routes 24 and 495, make the property attractive to many casino developers.

But while "slots-only" is attractive to McKinnon, he's cool to the idea of a full-fledged casino.

"We have pushed that any legislation for slots or casinos would be pending local vote from the citizens. And I would not be in favor of a casino," McKinnon said. "If the people so voted, and the commonwealth so wished, so be it. But I think slots are something that should be in the future of that track.

"Biased, I am, I will admit. But it is conducive. It's been a gambling area for around 50 years."

Opponents Say Gambling Could Bring Crime To Raynham

Some in the area say Raynham's days as a gambling destination should come to an end. Casino opponent Mary Tufts, from neighboring Bridgewater, claims casinos and slot parlors end up costing taxpayers more than gambling brings in.

"Crime increases around casinos and slot parlors, including violent crime," Tufts said. "In New Jersey, I think there's six different new separate law enforcement agencies just for the casinos. And there's a whole regulatory bureaucracy that we would have to build also. ... Not only does it cost, but the reason they're there is to prevent corruption and crime that do follow, and that would definitely come here."

Regulatory agencies are part of the bill before the Senate. The proposal calls for a new gambling division in the Attorney General's office and a special division within the State Police. It would also create the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which would oversee the three casinos and one slot parlor in the state.

If Raynham Park is successful in its bid for a slots or casino license, the sleepy Raynham Park simulcast parlor will get a lot louder with the sounds of up to 1,250 slot machines.

This program aired on September 26, 2011.

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

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