Nov 17
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Legislature today gave final approval to expanded gaming legislation allowing three resort casinos in separate regions of the state and one openly-bid slot facility. The legislation could provide 10,000 to 15,000 long-term jobs in the Commonwealth and generate hundreds-of-millions of dollars a year for the state. “This expanded gaming legislation will bring immediate jobs, local aid and economic growth to our Commonwealth at a time we need it most,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “This is, first and foremost, a jobs bill that, through the authorization of three casinos and one openly-bid slot facility, will create thousands of job opportunities for the people of this state. This bill will fuel our economy as we continue to emerge from this recession and deliver immediate local aid for cities and towns.” “This legislation alone is not going to be the solution to our ongoing economic recovery, but it will help put unemployed residents back to work in good jobs with good benefits,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “We are doing better than most other states, but we still have more than 250,000 people who are unemployed in Massachusetts. In addition to full-time, long-term jobs, we will see thousands of immediate construction jobs once licenses are awarded and proposed projects are approved by host communities. Bringing jobs and revenues to Massachusetts continues to be our priority, and this bill is a part of that effort.” “We have passed gaming legislation that combines the strictest gaming regulatory provisions in the country with a plan to provide tens of thousands of jobs and allow the Commonwealth to recapture hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently being spent in other states,” said Representative Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill), the chairman of the House Committee on Ways & Means. “The introduction of expanded gaming in Massachusetts is a piece of the ongoing economic recovery in the Commonwealth.” “We have worked to craft a bill with the strongest regulatory protections possible to ensure industry integrity,” President Pro Tempore Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said. “We have included broad provisions to mitigate negative impacts to communities and the residents of the Commonwealth. This bill will help strengthen the Massachusetts economy to create new full-time jobs and revenues for funding education and health care.” “This conference report is a reasonable compromise that brings a long and deliberative process to fruition,” said Representative Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee), chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. “I would like to commend the Speaker for his leadership on this issue, which has produced a bill that will yield thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in new revenues for local aid, public education, and infrastructure improvements.” “The passage of this legislation has been long-awaited here in Commonwealth,” said Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan (D-Leominster), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Steering and Policy. “Thousands of jobs will be created for the citizens of Massachusetts, and I am very proud that the Legislature has moved forward on this very important issue. The Legislature has worked diligently to ensure a sound, transparent piece of legislation that will benefit citizens across the state.” Under the gaming conference report approved by the Senate and the House, the state receives revenue from a 25 percent tax on casino revenues and a 40 percent tax on the slots facility revenues. The collected revenues would be used to fund essential state and local services, including public safety, education, transportation, public health, debt reduction, local aid and the stabilization fund. Licensing fees collected by the state – at least $85 million for each casino and $25 million for the slot facility license – would be used for community mitigation, local capital projects, community colleges, tourism and other municipal needs. The legislation contains strong community aid and mitigation provisions requiring the Gaming Commission to work with municipalities on reducing potential negative effects brought on by a gaming establishment. Most importantly, no gaming facility would be built in a community without the residents of that community approving a project in a referendum vote. The legislation also provides protections for local business, requiring gaming facilities to negotiate agreements to level the playing field in terms of live entertainment and other cultural-related events. Under the legislation, casinos would be able to offer free drinks on the gaming floor only. It also calls for the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) to conduct a study on what the impact would be on the gaming industry if all bars and restaurants, like casinos, were allowed to offer free and discounted drinks. Individual protections in the legislation allow for voluntary betting limits and exclusions from gaming establishments. Additionally, casinos are required to provide mandatory monthly win/loss statements to anyone who is a rewards card holder. Family members can also petition to have a relative banned from a facility if there are signs of addiction. The legislation establishes a strict law enforcement and regulatory structure, with the enforcement of gaming laws falling upon dedicated state police and attorney general units which will collaborate with local police from any host community. The independent Gaming Commission will oversee and regulate casino and slot gaming in the Commonwealth. It will consist of governor, attorney general and treasurer appointees who must have experience in legal and gaming policy, law enforcement and finance. Another safety provision in the final legislation requires all potential employees to provide any criminal history to the Gaming Commission. The bill prevents all public employees – whether state, local or elected – who worked on expanded gaming legislation or are involved in any negotiations for the licensing of gaming establishments from seeking a job at a casino for at least one year after leaving their job. Under the legislation, the Gaming Commission can offer up to three casino licenses, divided by region, and one slot facility license with up to 1,250 slot machines bid competitively statewide. The three casino regions are:
  • Eastern Region – consisting of Suffolk, Middlesex, Essex, Norfolk and Worcester counties;
  • Southeastern Region – consisting of Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket counties; and
  • Western Region – consisting of Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties.
Additionally, the legislation recognizes federal tribal rights and therefore authorizes the governor to contract with Native American tribes before casino license applications are submitted. There are currently two federally recognized tribes in Massachusetts: the Mashpee Wampanoag and the Aquinnah. Any applicant approved for a license must agree to minimum investments of $500 million for a casino and $125 million for the slot facility license, with an upfront 10 percent deposit. The legislation now goes to the Governor for his signature.