By State House News Service
and MediaNews Staff
BOSTON — Casino opponents have filed for a court injunction challenging Attorney General Martha Coakley’s decision not to certify a proposed 2014 ballot question that would repeal the state’s expanded gaming law.
Casino regulators are months away from awarding licenses for two resort-style casinos and a slot parlor, and Coakley ruled the questions would violate applicants’ constitutional rights to compensation for the taking of private property for public use.
Repeal the Casino Deal, a statewide coalition behind the ballot initiative, said it filed for the injunction Tuesday with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and will be represented by East Boston attorney Matthew Cameron.
“Citizens of the commonwealth will not be denied our right to pursue having our voices heard and cast a vote on bringing the gambling industry with known permanent negative impacts to our communities,” said John Ribeiro, a Winthrop resident and chairman of Repeal the Casino Deal. “In fact, we are more energized than ever following the stunning decision by the AG.”
He continued: “The whole matter of expanding predatory gambling has been fueled by special interests including political ambitions and gimmicks to fix budget challenges.”
Casino opponents proposed a similar ballot question to repeal the 2011 expanded-gaming law for the 2012 statewide election. But they saw that question ruled ineligible for the ballot as well by Coakley, after she ruled the language would unlawfully impact monetary appropriations, which is prohibited in ballot questions.
The Cordish Companies’ proposal for a slots casino in Leominster is competing with plans in Plainville and Raynham.
On Tuesday, the town of Plainville, which is located in eastern Massachusetts, approved a ballot referendum to bring a slots parlor operated by Penn National Gaming to the Plainridge Racetrack.
Before stepping in at Plainridge, Penn National sought to build a casino in Springfield, though City Hall elected to negotiate with MGM Resorts. Penn National also tried for a slots parlor in Tewksbury, but that plan was squelched by Town Meeting.
Last week, Mass Gaming & Entertainment announced it was dropping plans for a proposed slots casino in Millbury.
The state plans to issue one slots license by the end of the year and three full casino licenses in 2014.
Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella, who negotiated a host-community agreement with The Cordish Companies, said he still believes the Jungle Road proposal has the high card.
Leominster is the only community that wouldn’t cannibalize business from a full casino, Mazzarella said.
The state plans to award licenses for full casinos in the western, southern and eastern parts of the state.
Millbury appeared to be the biggest threat to The Cordish Companies’ proposal, Mazzarella said.
In Leominster, there has been strong support from the community for the proposed slots casino. The project is scheduled to go to a public referendum vote on Sept. 24.