Casino question will be allowed on ballot

Victory for casino opponents pushes MGM's process back until at least Nov.

BOSTON (WWLP) – Massachusetts residents will have the chance to vote on whether to allow casinos in the state, due to a ruling from the commonwealth’s highest court.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled Tuesday to allow a ballot question that would repeal the state’s 2011 casino law. The case, Abdow v. Attorney General, was put into the court’s hands after Attorney General Martha Coakley refused to certify the question for the ballot; saying that if it passed, it would bring about an unconstitutional taking of property.

Following the decision, Coakley said that she knew the issue would ultimately be decided by the court, and that she is happy the matter has been resolved.

“I am pleased that the SJC has ruled on this matter, and it is now an issue that will be decided by the voters in the fall,” Coakley said.

Click here to read the court’s decision

Representatives of the anti-casino group Repeal the Casino Deal have collected far more than the required number of signatures to get the issue onto November’s ballot.

The law they are seeking to repeal, which was passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2011, allows for the licensing of up to three casinos in Massachusetts. The state’s gaming commission voted to grant the sole western Massachusetts license to MGM Springfield, pending the outcome of the repeal process.

Michael Eagan of Repeal the Casino Deal says that though individual cities and towns have been able to vote on proposed casinos, the residents of the entire state should have a say on the matter.

“This is really democracy with a capital ‘D'; allowing every voter to vote. I think it’s important every voter across the state vote because of the known negative impacts of casinos,” Eagan said.

With the question being able to reach the ballot, MGM’s effort to build a casino in Springfield’s South End will be delayed at least until after the election, or end altogether if repeal passes.

In a news conference held late Tuesday morning, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said that though he is disappointed with the decision, he and other casino backers are ready for a campaign this November.

“This is about bringing thousands of good-paying jobs into the city of Springfield and western Massachusetts, and bringing millions of dollars in tax revenue into the city of Springfield, and in turn, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Sarno said.

Election day is Tuesday, November 4.

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