Casino construction plans around Massachusetts are in various stages of progress, but they may be reversed as an anti-casino group received a court injunction on Saturday. This development may put a question on the 2014 ballot to repeal the law that allows casinos to exist in the state.
“Repeal the Casino Deal,” the anti-casino group, filed a petition on Aug. 7 to repeal the state law enacted in 2011 that allows for three casinos and one slot parlor to be licensed in the Commonwealth. The group had to file for an injunction after Mass. Attorney Gen. Martha Coakley did not certify the initiative for the 2014 ballot on Sept. 4 due to conflicts with existing laws.
“Anything that continues the dialogue on the casino issue helps our cause,” said Celeste Myers, sister of the repeal question’s sponsor and co-chair of the No Eastie Casino advocacy group. “There are so many pitfalls with local processes. We want to take care of the issue at its source.”
The attempt to repeal the law comes as several casinos are competing for three resort licenses. One proposal for a Hard Rock International casino in Springfield was voted down Sept. 10, but two other proposals are still competing for the western Massachusetts license, and several others are in different points of the public approval process across the Commonwealth.
A casino resort proposed by Suffolk Downs horse racing track in East Boston is awaiting public referendum before it can be built. It is competing for the greater Boston license with Wynn resorts, which has already been approved for referendum by Everett, the host community. Another competitor is Foxwoods in the city of Wynn, which is yet to be voted on.
Myers said the No Eastie Casino group, which is spreading awareness of the possible dangers of the Suffolk Down development, was worried about the potential social and economic costs of the resort.
“Whenever there are casinos, addiction goes up exponentially,” she said. “Foreclosures and crime go up. It’s not even real money they’re promising. They drain local businesses and main streets. They wouldn’t spend billions of dollars to build a casino unless they could bring in billions more, and that [money] often comes from the desperate.”
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which is in charge of giving out casino licenses, declined to comment.
Some people said they supported building a casino in Boston because of the economic opportunities it could bring to the area.
“People are always going to gamble,” said Margaret Marrill, 72, a resident of Boston and receptionist for the Department of Health and Human Services. “It just makes sense to have it close instead of having to go all the way to Connecticut. The amount of jobs it will give people — that’s definitely a good thing too.”
Other people said they were worried about what kind of influence the casino would have on the community.
Daniel Baird-Miller, 27, a resident of Malden and photographer, said he was skeptical of casinos’ benefits in Boston and in Massachusetts.
“There are better ways to promote commerce and bring in money than casinos, which seems like an easy way out,” he said. “Sure, it will bring in some money, but short term. Investing in education or something of the sort will bring better long-term benefits.”
Pierre Mazarin, 32, a resident of Boston, said the casino may have some social and economic costs, but they would be worth it in the long run.
“It would be nice to encourage ourselves to be more, and the casino would do that,” he said. “It would make the city more fun for the people here, and it would make others want to come to Boston to have fun, too.”