After a weekend of scrambling and wrangling, the casino fight goes on.
State lawmakers passed a bill late Saturday that included two licenses for slot parlors as well as three resort-style casinos. Gov. Deval Patrick says he will strip racetrack slot parlors from the casino gambling bill and then send it back to the Legislature.
"The decisions that we are making in this context are decisions that we will live with for decades. And I mean to get it right."Gov. Deval Patrick
The governor’s counter is the latest move in a heightening standoff between Patrick and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has long pushed to bring slot parlors to at least some of the state's racetracks.
Right now, the slots question means that if you don’t want expanded gambling in Massachusetts, your biggest friends are the places where you can gamble. That's because the idea to give the state’s struggling horse and dog racetracks a lift by letting them add slot machines could sink the entire deal.
"Look, for me, the whole idea of slot parlors is not where I want to be," Patrick said at the State House on Saturday.
Patrick repeated that sentiment on Sunday in Worcester, announcing he would send the bill back to the Legislature. He thinks slots at racetracks will only sap dollars from the more robust casinos that are at the core of the gambling bill.
"Seriously, this is a very important decision, and the decisions that we are making in this context are decisions that we will live with for decades. And I mean to get it right," Patrick said.
But DeLeo has made it very clear he thinks Patrick is getting it wrong. "It’s going to be the people of Massachusetts who are going to suffer for that decision," DeLeo said.
In a defiant speech at the State House Saturday, DeLeo warned Patrick not to risk the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in new revenue. Standing on a grand staircase with nearly 100 supporters, DeLeo said that if Patrick doesn't like the bill, he should veto it rather than amending it.
"And if he does, this House is well prepared to override that veto," DeLeo said, to applause.
The deadlock could kill the bill, and that gives hope to casino opponents, like former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, now with United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts. Just look at how much time lawmakers have spent on this, Harshbarger says.
"And if (Patrick vetoes the bill), this House is well prepared to override that veto."House Speaker Robert DeLeo
"They did it badly, were overtaken by greed and self-interest. And that’s exactly what’ll happen if we have gambling generally," Harshbarger said. "This’ll dominate every public priority of the Legislature. So I hope this lets people see the potential problems that come with expanded gambling."
What happens next is not clear. Saturday was the last day of the formal session, so lawmakers would have to reconvene and extend their session to take up Patrick’s amended bill.
If lawmakers don’t come back, Patrick says he’ll have to veto what they gave him. And then it would be up to lawmakers to come back into session to override the veto. Or, they could just leave for dead the bill that seems to have taken on a life of its own.
This program aired on August 2, 2010.