Senate Passes Casino Gambling Bill

By Sarah Birnbaum

Oct. 14, 2011

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

BOSTON — Massachusetts is one step closer to having casinos. 

The Massachusetts Senate has approved its version of the casino gambling bill by a vote of 24 to 14.

The bill would allow three casinos in three different regions in the state and one slots parlor.

Senate President Therese Murray, who cast a rare vote in favor of the bill, says it would bring in more than $1 billion in new revenue for the state and spur job growth.

"This is an economic development bill and it's gonna create jobs. And we have over 250,000 people out of work in the commonwealth. And that's why we're doing this bill," Murray said.

Casino opponent Senator Jamie Eldridge of Acton says he's disappointed but not surprised by the vote.

"It's going to negatively affect small businesses, it's going to affect downtown communities, it's going to have significant safety, traffic, environmental impacts," Eldridge said.

The Senate bill now heads to a six-member conference committee to be reconciled with the version passed by the House last month. The two bills are very similar but contain some differences.

Among them, the senate bill would force lawmakers who are leaving office to wait at least a year before taking a job at a casino. The Senate bill would allow bay state bars and restaurants to once again offer free and discounted drinks. The Senate bill also lets the Boston City Council decide whether all the residents of Boston should be allowed to vote on a casino if one is proposed there, or just those living in the neighborhood where the casino would be located. 

Senator Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst, the Senate’s point person on gambling, hopes  to have  a bill on the governor’s desk by Thanksgiving.  He says if Patrick signs the bill, then the first casino could be up and running within two to three years. 

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