Casino referendum will be before SJC on May 5th

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – Activists seeking to repeal the casino gaming law will appear in the state’s highest court May 5 to argue against Attorney General Martha Coakley’s ruling that a proposed referendum cannot be placed on the ballot.

The AG’s office has until Wednesday to file its brief in the case. Secretary of State William Galvin needs to know by July 9 whether the referendum can appear on the ballot, according to repeal proponents.

Last September, State Solicitor Peter Sacks, who works in Coakley’s office, ruled casino developers applying for licenses “have a reasonable expectation, and indeed an implied contractual right, that the application process itself will play out,” and the referendum would not compensate developers for their losses, making it ineligible for the ballot under the constitution.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo, and George Ducharme, who has some interest in the horse racing at slots parlor license winner Plainridge Racecourse, according to his lawyer Carl Valvo, argued in a brief to the Supreme Judicial Court that a statewide ballot question could upend votes backing local casino projects.

“The factual impact of the Petition is to allow the other 347 municipalities across the state to invalidate the local government action of, at most, four communities,” read their brief. “For more than a century, this Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have held that state legislatures lack the authority to contract away the State’s right to exercise its police and regulatory powers,” wrote those seeking repeal, noting that repeal legislation, including a Sen. William Brownsberger bill (S 167), has been pending before the Legislature.

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