BOSTON (AP) - The future of casino gambling in Massachusetts has become a major topic of debate among the three Democrats and two Republicans seeking the gubernatorial nominations of their parties in the Sept. 9 primaries.
A 2011 law opened the door for casinos in the state for the first time, allowing for up to three resort casinos and one slots parlor, but a question before voters on the November ballot calls for repealing that law.
Fisher, a businessman and tea party member, opposes casinos and unlike his Republican primary opponent Charlie Baker, said he planned to vote in November to repeal the state's 2011 gambling law.
"They can't bring real jobs to this state," Fisher has said of casinos.
Fisher, however, said if voters reject the repeal question, he would not as governor do anything to interfere with casino operators.
Baker, the former head of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, was the first candidate for governor to suggest the possibility of a single casino going forward even if Massachusetts voters repeal the gambling law in November.
The Republican said he would ask the Legislature to allow MGM Resorts to continue with a proposed $800 million casino in downtown Springfield. The state gambling commission awarded MGM the western Massachusetts casino license in June.
"I'm going to vote against the repeal effort," Baker said. "And if the repeal effort is approved, I'm going to file legislation to put the Springfield casino back on the map," Baker said recently.
While he supports the current law, Baker has said he would have preferred that it initially authorized only one casino.
Grossman supports the casino law and plans to vote against the repeal question, despite acknowledging that the Lottery, which he oversees as state treasurer, could take at least a small initial hit from the onset of casino gambling.
"Along with Governor Patrick, I've supported the expansion of casino gaming in Massachusetts because it holds the potential to create 15,000 jobs as well as up to $300 million in additional revenue, which can be invested in some of our most important priorities, including universal pre-K education," said Grossman.
If the law is repealed, the Democrat said he would respect the will of voters and not try to salvage a proposed casino in Springfield.
The state attorney general ruled last year that the proposed ballot question calling for repeal of the casino gambling law was unconstitutional. But she also said she was "perfectly satisfied" with the unanimous decision by the state's highest court to overturn her ruling.
The Democrat said she will vote against repeal, but her support for casinos has been lukewarm.
"I have said that casinos is not the first place I ever would have gone for economic development," she said.
Coakley also said recently that she would keep an open mind toward the possibility of seeking legislative approval for a proposed $800 million casino in Springfield, even if the current law is repealed by voters.
Berwick, a former federal health care administrator, is the only Democrat supporting repeal of the law that allows for up to three regional resort casinos and a single slots parlor in Massachusetts.
Though he recognizes the need for new jobs and tax revenue in the state, Berwick said he believes casinos are too risky a proposition.
"I don't believe that we should be teaching our children that economic development is best achieved through gambling institutions," he said.
Among the concerns cited by Berwick, a physician, is that casinos will lead to a spike in gambling addiction, hurting families and adding costs for behavioral health treatment.
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