(NECN: Eileen Curran, Boston, Mass.) -The Massachusetts House of Representatives took the first step Wednesday in bringing casino gambling to the state. Members voted 123 - 32 in favor of the Expanded Gambling Legislation.
The vote came after a day of debate and discussion where members on both sides of the issue presented their concerns.
“It is a predatory business exploiting the hopes and dreams of vulnerable people and profiting from developing addiction and debt,” said Rep Ruth Balser (D)- Newton.
“This bill has been given the most thorough review and consideration with extreme care taken. The follow up process got to listen to all parties,” said Rep Joe Wagner, (D)- Chicopee.
The bill would allow for three casinos and a slot parlor in the state. Representative Kathi Reinstein (D)- Revere has been working on casino legislation for 13 years and said it all came down to jobs.
“People are really looking forward to going to work,” she said. “These are good jobs that have great benefits.”
Proponents say the casinos would create 16 thousand jobs, construction and permanent. They would also bring in millions of dollars to state coffers. Anyone applying for a license would have to pay a 350-thousand dollar non-refundable fee. If they succeed in getting the license, the fee for that is 85-million dollars.
Opponents say you have to look beyond the dollar signs.
“It’s hasty,” said Denise Provost (D) Somerville. “It takes power away from communities and the legislature and puts it in an appointed commission that has very few parameters,” she said.
The bill has the backing of the house speaker, senate president and the governor.
The House took up 154 amendments. It passed one that would require language as to how to split up the state’s share of the money.
Rep. Paul Frost, (R)-Auburn proposed eliminating the three designated regions for the casinos because Worcester county would be competing with the Boston area for a casino.
“It is not the best route for this bill,” said Frost. “It’s not the best route for Worcester county to have a fair opportunity.”
The House voted down that measure.
The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to begin debate on it in about two weeks.