Craps Go the Casinos?

Shirley Leung, The Boston Globe’s business columnist, provided a public service the other day by running down what all the gubernatorial candidates have to say about casinos in Massachusetts. Recent casino stories have included East Boston voting down a casino and Revere attempting to adopt it, the travails of Chairman Steve Crosby, Governor Deval Patrick suing to stop a Native American casino on Martha’s Vineyard, Repeal the Casino Deal advocates filing enough signatures to reach the ballot and preparing an effort to overturn Attorney General Martha Coakley’s disapproval of the ballot measure, and on and on. Everywhere you look there are known-knowns, known-unknowns, and politicians should fear, some unknown-unknowns.

First, here is what Ms. Leung found out about the gubernatorial candidates’ positions on the repeal effort:

Coakley, Treasurer Steven Grossman, and Jeffrey McCormick are in favor “if it’s done right.” Joe Avellone and Evan Falchuk, in favor because it is unstable to pass such a major piece of legislation and then reverse it shortly thereafter. Charlie Baker, repeal, current law tries to do too much, though he would go for one casino. Don Berwick, repeal, casinos create public health and crime problems. Juliette Kayyem didn’t respond to Leung. I had actually thought more candidates might try to duck casinos.

Consider that on Election Day 2013 the anti-East Boston casino advocates prevailed over the pro-casino forces by 56 percent to 44 percent. Then scroll on over to the OCPF website and read the campaign finance reports for the contending interests. In the January 2013 report Friends of Suffolk Downs reported expenditures of $994,658; in the October 2013 report they reported spending $946,759. To beat them No Eastie Casino reported spending a whopping $22,117 in the October report and exactly $0 in the January filing. So much for money can’t be beat.

That should concern these candidates because if the effort to repeal casinos gets on the ballot it could create havoc. The attorney general could be vulnerable because her office determined that the measure is unconstitutional and can’t be on the ballot. But as Leung reports that decision is not air tight and could be overturned by the Supreme Judicial Court. Some casinos will be moving toward setting up shop and they’ll spend a fortune but you never know, the people united will never be defeated. Look at Eastie. Coakley could be left holding the bag while all hell breaks loose because you have moneyed interests against the people and her office sided with the money. The statewide ballot referenda is a Progressive Era reform to put power in the hands of the people over money.

There is also the fact that the state has been planning on the income from casinos down the road. You do have to govern once you get in there and that takes revenue.

Meanwhile as the Globe’s Joan Vennochi writes Governor Patrick is against the Wampanoag Aquinnah Martha’s Vineyard casino but just on legal principle, not on substance, and in favor of the Mashpee Wampanoag effort to build a casino in Taunton. Also the father of Bay State casinos would vote against a betting parlor in his vacation town of Richmond. NIMBY.

When you enter a casino the outcome is a known-known: the fix is in. The house wins, you lose. The gubernatorial candidates can’t be so sure. There are a lot of unknowns here of the known and unknown variety.





About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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6 Responses to Craps Go the Casinos?

  1. Tim says:

    It seems as if Don Berwick is trying to set himself up as the anti casino candidate along with being the most capital P progressive candidate. I wonder though how well that will work out him. Berwick seems to be in the mold of Robert Reich circa 2002 not Deval Patrick circa 2006. Additionally Julie Kayyem has more name recognition and seems to be taking up space on the left that Reich had in 2002 away from Berwick.

    I know Berwick is trying to point out that he entered the campaign earlier on than Reich did which is true but in 2002 Reich did have somewhat of a national profile from his work in the Clinton administraton. Berwick is still very much unknown outside of political blogs such as this one. Don Berwick also faces the problem that many if not all political opponents of casinos on the right side of the spectrum will not be being voting for him under any circumstances.

    At this point my own view is Steve Grossman is seeming to have all the advantages of being part of the political establishment with none of the baggage. Additionally I think Martha Coakley despite her past travails will still obtain a substantial amount of party support.

  2. I am wondering if you are going to give a current synopsis of the candidates’ positions on predatory gambling, regressive taxation and their prospects to make the ballot? Thank you!

    • Maurice T. Cunningham says:

      Kathleen, a review of candidate positions on gambling seems necessary to me, but a function for a journalist. Shirley Leung, the Globe business columnist, did cover this awhile back.

  3. Tim says:


    My sense is everyone in the race including perhaps Avellone have a shot at the ballot. I think though that both Berwick and Avellone would have problems uniting the party if they were the nominee. It is a very tough for an outsider in my opinion to unite the party unless they have overwhelming support of the party membership as Deval Patrick did. So if lets say Berwick squeaks onto the ballot then squeaks out a primary win with lets say 35% or 40% I think it would be very difficult for Berwick to get the party behind him and prevent a fairly significant level of defections to Charlie Baker. Whereas if Steve Grossman only wins the primary with lets say 35% or 40% he will easily get everyone elses supporters on board quite quickly(Even Berwick supporters like Jamie Eldridge and Sonia Chang-Diaz).

    The truth of the matter is the majority of Massachusetts Democratic Party is in some way pro regressive taxation and pro predatory gambling. For someone like Berwick who anti regressive taxation and anti predatory gambling competing against four other candidates who are the opposite puts him as a political outsider in very disadvantaged position. I think if Berwick had Kayyem’s caucus support in addition to his own he might be in a far better position. Kayyem is a perfect foil for Grossman especially to keep the second tier candidates from hurting him and to peel away women voters from Coakley.

  4. Tim says:


    I will also add this is simply political chatter but in a couple places I have heard serious talk off the following delegate count at the convention: Grossman, Kayyem, Coakley, Berwick, Avellone.

    A third place finish would have to be truly embarrassing for Martha Coakley however, at least from my perspective not being a huge fan of Coakley’s political talents I have to say I personally would not be overally shocked by such an outcome. In this scenario Kayyem is not simply taking votes away from Berwick that he desperately needs but becoming a major force herself. I have to say I do hear that many think that Kayyem has the most “sizzle” in race. Now sizzle is not everything and is perhaps overrated but I would argue for example Deval Patrick had sizzle in 2006 whereas Robert Reich in 2002 did not. Who was the more successful candidate?

    Capital P progressives are not going to be that thrilled with Kayyem because unlike Berwick she has bent to the party bosses on areas such as Casinos, Single Payer Healthcare, and regressive taxation. On the otherhand Deval Patrick did exactly the same and ended up winning two terms. Running against your party especially when your party has won the last two election is not necessarily the best strategy.

  5. Tim says:

    As of a few minutes ago the Kayyem campaign put out a statement claiming to be in second place in the delegate count. The Berwick campaign also put out a statement claiming to have cleared the 15% bar. Having said that there already some like David Bernstein of Boston Magazine that are questioning the veracity of these claims. Notwithstanding if Martha Coakley really is in third that is hardly a great showing.

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