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In DeLeo's Winthrop, The Casino Bill Is Personal03:39
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A plane flies low over Winthrop, House Speaker Robert DeLeo's hometown. (Jess Bidgood for WBUR)
A plane flies low over Winthrop, House Speaker Robert DeLeo's hometown. (Jess Bidgood for WBUR)

On Monday, because of the prevailing wind direction at Logan Airport, jets were taking off over Winthrop, the home of Speaker Robert DeLeo, who everyone here calls Bobby.

When last seen in public on Saturday night, DeLeo's voice sonically boomed through the halls of the State House with anger he's seldom displayed.

"Should the governor do anything less than to allow this bill to become law, this is too bad. It's going to be the people of the state of Massachusetts who are going to suffer because of that decision," DeLeo said.

DeLeo was talking about the meal that House and the Senate had served up to Gov. Deval Patrick — a bill calling for three resort-style casinos that would also license two racetracks for slot parlors. Patrick sent that meal back to the chefs — and now he only wants casinos on the plate.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo talks with supporters after announcing his proposal to allow gambling casinos and slot machine parlors at racetracks in Massachusetts, at a news conference at the State House in Boston. (AP)
House Speaker Robert DeLeo talks with supporters after announcing his proposal to allow gambling casinos and slot machine parlors at racetracks in Massachusetts, at a news conference at the State House in Boston. (AP)

That means what was once a stalemate between the governor and DeLeo is now a cold war.

As a Good Humor truck criss-crossed Winthrop in a hardscrabble search for business, DeLeo's constituents reacted to the speaker's ill humor.

"I think it's based upon the frustration of, 'Can't you see this, can't you see the generating revenue we could have for the commonwealth,'" Ernie Fobert said.

Fobert added that DeLeo never forgot where he came from — the greatest respect you can pay in the blue-collar town. Indeed, DeLeo still lives in the house where he grew up.

When DeLeo talks about the jobs involved with racetracks and creating more with slot machines, he's talking about people he knows well. Senior citizens from McGee's Corner he's known since childhood go to Foxwood's by the busload to play not cards or craps, but slots. His father, Al, worked at the Turf Club at Suffolk Downs for 50 years. So, for DeLeo, this fight is very personal.

"This guy's been really masterful in what he's been able to accomplish in terms of where the last speaker was," said Mike Monahan, of IBEW Local 103.

It may be instructive to recall that the last speaker, Sal DiMasi, was opposed to legalized gambling and put the governor's hopes for resort casinos on ice. This speaker wants more slot parlors if also fewer casinos than the governor.

Last week, Patrick agreed to one racino or racetrack with slot machines. The Senate and House passed a bill for two. When the governor reacted by threatening to veto the bill, the intensity of DeLeo's commitment boiled over.

"We value compromise and we're trying to get a deal done," DeLeo said. "We have found a way to work together. Now, we are calling on the governor to find a way to work together as well."

As Richie Romano worked the cash register at the Terminal J lounge at Jeveli's Restaurant in East Boston, he applauded DeLeo and criticized the governor.

Gov. Deval Patrick, right, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo address members of the media in 2009. (AP)
Gov. Deval Patrick, right, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo address members of the media in 2009. (AP)

"See I don't understand. If you got one, what's the big deal with another one. You know what I'm saying," Romano said.

But now the governor has sent an amended bill back to the Legislature that retracts even his earlier agreement to one slot machine parlor for racetracks.

"I'm done. I'm done with that," Patrick said.

Is DeLeo done with Patrick? Now it's really personal.

This program aired on August 3, 2010.

David Boeri Twitter Senior Reporter
Now retired, David Boeri was a senior reporter at WBUR.

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