NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 16, 2011

Casino bill gets speedy approval

Legislation still requires final vote, governor's OK

BOSTON — State lawmakers have passed a landmark casino gambling bill that will allow resort-style casinos to open, and may create a thoroughbred horse-breeding facility in the Greater Newburyport area.

The House voted 118-33 yesterday afternoon to accept the compromise bill, which will allow up to three resort-style casinos and one slots parlor. The Senate quickly followed, approving the bill on a 23-14 vote. Each chamber must take a final procedural vote before sending the bill to Gov. Deval Patrick, who is expected to support it.

Voting in favor were the four lawmakers who represent the Greater Newburyport area — Sens. Steven Baddour and Bruce Tarr, and Reps. Michael Costello and Harriett Stanley.

Costello, D-Newburyport, called it "the most significant piece of economic development legislation that we could have passed.

"The gaming legislation passed today by the House is expected to create more than 15,000 jobs over the next five years and produce new streams of revenue to address areas like education, transportation infrastructure and public health," Costello said. "The bill requires both an up-front payment for the gaming license and, in the case of the three casinos, an additional investment of at least $500 million in infrastructure.

"Additionally, I think we have put appropriate controls in place to oversee gaming in the commonwealth and ensure the best experience for the consumer and the best result for the state."

Stanley, D-West Newbury, said it is a way to get out in front of the casino gambling issue.

"This was a long time coming, and it's better for us to decide how we're going to do this than wait for others to decide for us," Stanley said yesterday, referring to large gaming corporations or Native American tribal entities.

Stanley said she's "pretty happy" with the 150-page bill. The part of the bill Stanley likes the most is the revenue it will generate to support local thoroughbred breeding programs, known as the race horse development fund.

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