Last-Minute Change Brings Casino Bill To Governor

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Nov. 16, 2011

horse racing

A last-minute change to the casino gambling bill decreases the amount of revenue that goes to horse racing. Above, Suffolk Downs. (Chris Spader/Flickr)


BOSTON — After a rare last-minute change that cut subsidies for horse racing, the casino gambling bill is in Gov. Deval Patrick's hands.

The Mass. Legislature made the change Wednesday after Patrick expressed concerns over the amount of money going to the horse racing industry.
 
Initially, the bill set aside an extra 5 percent of casino revenues to prop up the horse racing industry. That's on top of other subsidies to the industry included in the bill. 

Horse racing is a pet cause of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who has Suffolk Downs in his district. Rep. Joseph Wagner of Chicopee, the co-chairman of the economic development committee and DeLeo’s point person on gambling, initially defended the importance of horse racing subsidies: “We have cut back substantially on racing dates in this commonwealth, at least since I’ve been in the legislature, and farming and agriculture and things associated with racing and horses are an important industry in Massachusetts,” he said.

However, the amendment cut the subsidy in half — and cleared the bill's way to the governor’s desk. 
 
Said Wagner, “Whatever change we made to the amendment obviously was done to get everyone involved a comfort level with the legislation.”
 
An administration official says Patrick is expected to sign the gambling bill next week, bringing casinos to Massachusetts for the first time.

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