Casino opponents collected 26,000 signatures

BOSTON (WWLP) – Casino gambling opponents say that they have collected more than 26,000 signatures to get a casino repeal question on the November ballot, and they plan on handing those signatures in to local elections officials statewide Wednesday.

“We’ve seen in town after town where more and more people learn about casinos, they don’t like what comes along with them and people who are going to be impacted should have the opportunity to vote on it,” said Chairman of the Casino Repeal Committee John Riberio.

The 26,000 signatures far exceed the 11,485-signature threshold needed to put the question on the ballot, but a casino ballot question is still far from a sure thing.

Attorney General Martha Coakley refused to certify the question; claiming it would bring about an unconstitutional taking of property. Therefore, the matter is now in the hands of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which will decide whether or not the question can be placed on the ballot.

“Certainly looming over everything is the SJC, and whether or not they’re going to put this on the ballot, so I think in one way or another it’s good to have some finality to the issue,” said Springfield State Representative Angelo Puppolo.

The state’s 2011 casino law legalized expanded gaming, and allowed for the licensing of up to three resort casinos and one slots parlor. The state’s Gaming Commission voted last week to grant a license for MGM to build a casino in Springfield, but construction has not begun, pending the outcome of the repeal effort.

Casino repeal supporters told 22News they’re confident the SJC will allow voters to decide whether Massachusetts will become a casino state. The court is expected to make a decision some time in the next three weeks.

Below is a statement from Jeff Ciuffreda, President of the Affiliated Chambers of Commerce Greater Springfield:

“It is frustrating to watch the repeal effort play out, while Springfield is working hard to get back to work.  Downtown Springfield should have shovels in the ground as we speak.  The people behind the repeal do not respect the voters of Springfield, and have no answers for our stressed economy and struggling workforce.  The gaming act provided our city an opportunity, and we seized that opportunity.  They are delaying our future and should not be allowed a do-over.”

The Affiliated Chambers of Commerce of Greater Springfield, Inc. is a business association representing the East of the River 5 Town Chamber (East Longmeadow, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, and Wilbraham), the city of Springfield, the Professional Women’s Chamber and nearly 1,000 businesses of all sizes, industry and profession, providing leadership in creating a healthy economic climate.

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