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Nov
2014
12

Shovel, Meet Ground: MA Voters Uphold State’s Right to Build Job-Creating Casinos

A rendering of the proposed Everett casino

A rendering of the proposed Everett casino

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In the Massachusetts elections, voters overwhelmingly beat back Question 3, which would have repealed the state’s gambling laws and halted construction of two casinos in the Bay State.  As we wrote last month, the ballot question was worded in such a manner that yes meant no and no meant yes. But potential voter confusion was outdone by strong labor efforts to defend the right of the state to build, and in the end 59 percent of voters defended casino construction.

Frank Callahan, President of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council, told the Boston Globe: “We always thought we were going to win handily.  The members have been really working hard. This will mean about 6,500 jobs.”

Plans for resort casinos in Springfield and Everett can now begin. A slot parlor in Plainville could be open by June of 2015.  

Representatives of MGM Springfield said that survey work for their casino would begin post haste and that an official groundbreaking ceremony could take place by the spring.  At an election night gathering, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno proclaimed, “I think it’s time to get the shovels in the ground.”

The anti-casino crew has some fight left in it, though.  John Ribeiro, leader of the Repeal the Casino Deal campaign, told the Boston Globe that his supporters “may try again someday to ban the casino industry from Massachusetts.”

Graciously, the victors are not acting spoiled. Commission chairman Steve Crosby said in a statement:

“We realize that approximately 41 percent voted in favor of the ballot initiative, and it is our job to continue to earn the confidence of all the people in Massachusetts — proponents and opponents alike.”

Gaming companies moved forward despite the risk of appeal and their, um, gamble paid off. From the Globe:

Penn National Gaming is midway through construction of the slot parlor in Plainville, after choosing to break ground last spring despite the threat of repeal. The risk paid off for Penn: The company’s Plainridge Park parlor is due to open in mid-2015, more than six months sooner than if the company had delayed construction until the repeal was settled. Penn has committed to preserving harness racing at the site, the only functioning harness track in the state.

“We’re just so grateful to the voters for a chance to bring this project to fruition,” said Eric Schippers, a Penn senior vice president. “There was a lot on the line for us.” In addition to more than $100 million already invested, “there were real people with real jobs.”

These jobs are not only for construction workers either.  Through late October, more than 2,700 people had applied to work at the Plainville casino despite its uncertain future.

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