Final Gambling Bill Almost There

By Sarah Birnbaum

Nov. 16, 2011


Slots machines are seen in a casino. (Lisa Brewster/Flickr)

BOSTON — The Mass. Legislature voted in favor of the final casino gambling bill on Nov. 15. The House vote was 118 to 33 and the Senate vote 23 to 14. Only a procedural step now stands between the bill and Gov. Deval Patrick's desk.

The final bill retains a Senate amendment requiring a year's cooling-off period, to prevent lawmakers from going to work for casinos for a full year after leaving office. Initially, the Senate set the cooling-off period to 5 years, but after a closed-door caucus, it was shortened to 1 year. The House bill didn’t include a cooling-off period at all.
Rep. Joseph Wagner of Chicopee, the House’s point person on gambling, helped draft the final bill.

“We think that was a reasonable compromise. We had some good discussion among the conferees about the issue. But we think that it is a reasonable, good and fair resolution,” he said on Nov. 15.
The conference committee scrapped another controversial proposal to revive "happy hour."

Speaking to reporters on Nov. 15, Patrick, who negotiated the major points of the casino legislation behind closed doors with House and Senate leadership earlier this year, said he was inclined to support the bill but needed time to review the details.

"The general contours of the bill are very promising. They comply or conform with the interests I've expressed before and the principles I have stood for and stood by, and I'm encouraged by the bill," Patrick said. 

He had some reservations about the finer points in the bill, such as the percentage of gambling revenues going to prop up the state's horse racing industry. However, those weren't serious concerns, he said: "I don't think any of them are show-stoppers but we're going to work with the Legislature to see if we can get some of that sorted out."

Patrick will have 10 days to sign or veto the bill or offer any amendments.

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