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.