Casino supporters, opponents argued in front of state’s highest court

BOSTON (WWLP) – The future of gambling in Massachusetts is now in the hands of the state’s highest court.

A hearing on whether to allow a ballot question that could overturn the state’s gambling law was held by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Monday morning.

The hearing itself lasted only 45 minutes, but there were dozens of briefs filed beforehand. The decision is not going to come down to whether or not casinos are good or bad for Massachusetts, but rather if the voters should have the right to vote on the state’s casino law.

Attorney General Martha Coakley had blocked the ballot question, saying that repealing the casino law would cause an unconstitutional taking of property. MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis told 22News that they have invested a lot in their efforts to secure a casino license.

“When we came into this process, we understood it had the full support of the legislature and the Governor and committed significant resources, and to not be able to get to the point of opening our facility and prove out the public policy initiatives would be troubling,” Mathis said.

But John Ribeiro of the group Repeal the Casino Deal said that the process hasn’t taken into account the views of those who live in communities in which casinos are not set to be located.

“What this really is about, is giving all the people in the state the right to vote on this.  I live in Winthrop, right next door to where a proposed casino is going to go in Revere, there are folks next door to Springfield that don’t have a say, we all acknowledged there’s going to be negative impacts, it’s just time for us all to have a say on this,” Ribeiro said.

Springfield at times has been moving faster than the state during this casino process.  The cities voters have approved MGM’s casino last summer.  The cities top lawyer told 22News, if a casino question goes on a ballot, its is an attack directly at Springfield.

“When you look at this law, which is a state-wide application it really targets Springfield in particular.  We hope they’ll be a decision that’s favorable,” said Springfield Solicitor Ed Pikula.

The justices now have until early July to file an opinion, which could potentially put a casino question on the ballot this November.

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