Massachusetts' highest court says voters can decide the fate of the state's casino gambling law.
The Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday that a question calling for repeal of the 2011 law can be on the November ballot.
The ruling overturns Attorney General Martha Coakley's finding that the proposed ballot question is unconstitutional because it would cause casino developers to lose property without compensation.
The law allows for up to three regional resort casinos and one slots parlor in Massachusetts. The state gambling commission recently granted MGM Resorts International a license for a proposed $800 million casino in Springfield. The two remaining licenses have not yet been awarded.
The slots parlor license has been awarded to the Plainridge harness track in Plainville.
Coakley, who's running for governor, fought to contain the fallout from the Supreme Judicial Court decision during a press conference at her office.
"I’m pleased that the supreme judicial court has ruled on this issue of great interest to voters in Massachusetts. I am pleased they have made a decision that lets us go to the ballot."
Coakley had argued the ballot question was an unconstitutional taking of contract rights from casino applicants. But the court unanimously disagreed, ruling the casinos should have been aware the law could change.
At the press conference, Coakley repeated her carefully worded position on casinos. She says they would not have been her first choice...but now that they’re almost here...
"I would vote against the repeal at this stage."
The Republican favorite, Charlie Baker, said in a statement he supports the court’s decision. But while he has misgivings about the casino law, he plans to vote against the repeal.
It's a position not all that different from Coakley’s.