As Lawmakers Finalize Gambling Bill, Groups Weigh In

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Aug. 17, 2011

BOSTON — Legislative leaders in Massachusetts are putting the finishing touches on a sweeping casino bill — but even with debate on the bill still a month away, groups with a stake in Massachusetts gambling are raising a host of concerns.

Some gambling advocates say the Bay State simply isn’t moving fast enough.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week his state is looking into legalizing commercial casinos. Right now, New York has Indian casinos and slot machines at race tracks.

Industry analysts say additional casinos in New York could cut into Massachusetts’ gambling revenue, if casinos were legalized here. The state would then face competition from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine.

Meanwhile, lawmakers from Southeastern Massachusetts are urging state leaders to make sure casino bidding is fair. They’re concerned Native Americans will get special treatment in bidding for casino licenses.

Some lawmakers believe the Mashpee Wampanoags, who want to build a resort-style casino in Fall River, have more leverage with the state than private developers. That’s because the tribe might still be able to offer gaming without the state’s permission even if it doesn’t get a casino license — without sharing revenue with state or local government.

Lawmakers are expected to take up an expanded gambling bill in September. The details of the bill haven’t been released yet.

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