Proponents of expanded gambling are holding out little hope of winning approval this year for casinos in Massachusetts.
The gambling stalemate between the Legislature and the Corner Office has centered on two people: House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Gov. Deval Patrick. They’re at odds over slot facilities at betting racetracks.
But there’s another key player — Senate President Therese Murray.
WBUR's Curt Nickisch has been covering the casino issue, and joined Morning Edition to discuss the woman who’s managed to stay out of the spotlight.
Delores Handy: Why is Murray a key figure at this point?
Curt Nickisch: It’s because Murray is the Senate’s majority leader. It’s her chamber that’s now looking like the bridge too far for the casino gambling bill. Here’s what I mean by that: It’s obvious now that Patrick is going to veto what the Legislature put on his desk. That means state lawmakers have the choice to override that veto. DeLeo had vowed he would do that. But Murray says she won't bring her Senate colleagues back. So DeLeo says if she doesn't do anything, he can't do anything.
Remind us what her position on casino gambling has been?
She’s for it. Initially she was not a fan of racetrack slots but she compromised with DeLeo to allow two of those facilities. So really, she has supported both what Patrick wants to pass and what DeLeo wants to pass. But as this conflict over racetrack slots came to a head, she backed out of the picture.
As an example, here she is during a news conference on Friday with DeLeo, announcing the House and Senate had reached a compromise bill. DeLeo’s at her side, and she’s talking about racetrack slots:
"From the four existing, uh, pari-mu ... what do you call them?" she said.
"Pari-mutuel." DeLeo responded.
"Pari-mutuel! You can tell I’m a big gambler."
He cued her a couple of times while she spoke, and as soon as she was done talking, she stepped way away from the microphone, stood there with her arms crossed and basically let others do the talking.
So is she talking any more now about having the Senate attempt to override the veto?
She’s dismissive of that now and not exactly vocal about it, either. I mean, I talked to her Tuesday at a non-related event and she just looked annoyed.
"I have no idea," she said. "You know I think we’ve exhausted our possibilities of keeping it alive."
She says she doesn’t have the votes to pass an override. And it's correct that the Senate passed the casino bill with 25 votes; two more would be needed to override the veto.
Is there any sign the Senate president is making an effort to round up two more votes?
Not really. Party leaders in the State House do have a lot of power and it’s not unreasonable to think you could shift some votes, or at least try. I asked Patrick if he thought Murray should be making more of an effort. Obviously, he is not pushing for an override of his own veto, but he would like state lawmakers to vote on his amended legislation for casinos with no ractrack slots. But she has a better sense of the state senators that she leads.
"You have to ask her that question," Patrick said. "I’m just saying that if folks are as concerned about these jobs as I am, then they can come in and take what ought to be an easy vote!"
Now, there was a lot of debate in the Senate, and most of those folks are pretty set in their positions. But you do have to wonder, based on Murray’s apparent half-hearted enthusiasm for casino gambling and racetrack slots, that she isn’t just happy to let it die and let these other two political figures, DeLeo and Deval, share most of the spotlight for that.
This program aired on August 4, 2010.