BOSTON — State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) voted Thursday against legislation to expand gambling by authorizing three casinos and one slot parlor in the Commonwealth. Eldridge was joined by 13 other colleagues in opposing the bill, which passed 24-14.
“I strongly believe expanding gambling in Massachusetts will harm our local small businesses and our communities, and that’s why I voted no. We need revenues and jobs here in Massachusetts, but casinos aren’t the answer. There are better ways, less destructive ways, to solve our fiscal problems and make the Commonwealth a better place to live.”
Eldridge, a long-time opponent of expanded gambling, pointed to numerous studies that show the negative effects local communities and businesses experience when casinos are built.
“When consumers spend more on casinos and less locally on clothing, sporting events, electronics, meals out or tickets to a show, small businesses suffer and jobs are cut,” Eldridge added. “People only have so much discretionary income. I am deeply concerned about the effect that sucking billions of dollars out of the local economy, and sending it out-of-state to wealthy casino developers, will have on our communities.”
Over the six-day debate, Senator Eldridge proposed numerous amendments to try to strengthen consumer protections and increase community mitigation. Amendments filed by Senator Eldridge that were incorporated into the final bill include:
· A ban on campaign donations from casino executives to any municipal official with direct or indirect oversight of casino negotiations
· A one-year ban on legislators working in the casino industry after leaving office
· A requirement that casinos send monthly loss statements to customers
· A provision to allow community mitigation funding to go to regional, as well as municipal, entities.
Eldridge proposed a number of additional amendments to increase protections for consumers and local communities; unfortunately these amendments were not adopted. These amendments include:
· Giving communities within 5 miles of a proposed casino the ability to vote to approve or disapprove the proposal
· Increasing the tax on casinos by 5% and directing that money towards community mitigation.
· Banning casinos from extending credit or providing cash advances or wire transfers on site
· Eliminating cashless wagering systems at casinos, a predatory practice that encourages problem gambling
· Requiring independent reviews of studies conducted by casino applicants on community impacts and mitigation needs
· Requiring casino licensees to use sustainable development practices
· Requiring casinos to provide healthcare for their workers
· Adding accountability measures to ensure casinos actually create the number of jobs they’ve promised to create
Eldridge noted that he had received an outpouring of support from constituents who also opposed expanded gambling in the Commonwealth.
“We fought hard, and did our best to make the case that bringing casinos to Massachusetts would do more harm than good. Given what a huge impact this will have on our state for decades to come, it was an uphill battle worth fighting – and I appreciate the support so many of my constituents have shown over the past few weeks and months” added Eldridge.
The bill now moves to a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate. It’s expected the bill will be signed into law by the Governor by the end of the year.