Thunderbirds are go as Mass. Senate approves casino bill


MassMassachusetts’ Senate has passed a casino bill that will see the creation of four new venues and includes wording that will look at establishing a framework for online poker. The bill, aimed at deflecting attention away from the imploding Red Sox, was passed by a vote of 24-14. It means the state could see a slots parlor as early as 2012 and the year after will see three full-scale casinos generating the state millions just from the contracts to build the behemoth venues.

Job creation is one of the main drivers behind this bill and who doesn’t like a good job, eh?! The other is that revenue from the state’s gamblers has long been exiting the state via the back door and they want their wonga back. They also managed to tack on an amendment that sets out plans to discuss online poker at some point in the future. With Governor Devel Patrick not having presidential aspirations, it could be that Massachusetts celebrates the Red Sox exiting the postseason by allowing intra-state online poker. Unlikely that it’ll happen that soon though.

As bones of contention come, this one’s a Double Whopper with extra cheese and pickles. Rover would think all his birthdays had come at once. That’s how sizeable it is. Naturally, the gambling industry opponents have got two pitchforks each and their copies of the Day After Tomorrow: Casino Edition at the ready. It’s the one where they try and make out that casino construction makes the world freeze over. Straight to DVD for that one.

Chief of today’s group of casino business opponents is president of Citizens for a Stronger Massachusetts Scott Harshbarger. Doesn’t the name just make you think he’d be wearing a Burger King crown to celebrate his coronation?

“This was just a classic, Massachusetts, behind-closed-doors power play by the special interests and lobbyists and casino owners,” Mr. Harshbarger said. “Only the public interest lost.”

It’s hard to tell here whether he’s talking about them taking over his franchise of Burger King and having an eating comp. Apparently he’s actually talking about casino expansion. Could have fooled us.

This was added to by State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Democrat who represents parts of Boston, stating: “It is tantamount to a tax on the poor; though we do have a grave budget that we need to cover, covering it on the backs of poor and working-class families is not the right thing to do.”

Calling it a tax on the poor is barking up the wrong alley. This bill is effectively trying to keep casino business revenues in the state and you can see why with the state’s residents making up 56% of all those visiting Rhode Island’s casinos in 2010. There are also a number of studies pointing out that the poorer quartile of the population doesn’t generally gamble in casinos. We’d challenge you to find casinos full of tramps, vagrants and toothless wonders wearing two-stripe Adidas joggers.

The bill comes after Massachusetts decided that happy hours should be reintroduced. That reminds us: Get Devel a shot. This party’s got legs.