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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fear of Casinos Hurt Mass Slots Bill

- Slots legislation was overwhelmingly defeated by a vote of 100-55 in the Massachusetts House, effectively ending the hopes of the state's tracks of getting VLT relief this year. Despite passing easily in the Senate, and having what seemed to be strong initial support in the House, the opposition of Speaker Sal DiMasi overwhelmingly turned the tide.

''Why have 90 votes melted away in the last two weeks?'' said an emotional David Flynn, D-Bridgewater, a primary sponsor of the slots bill.

''Am I disappointed that my own speaker decided to do some arm-twisting?'' Flynn said. ''Yes, I'm disappointed.'' [Cape Cod Online]
The prospect of full-blown Indian casinos was also a factor. The federal law known as the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires that tribes be granted the same rights to Class III (which in general covers most casino-type gambling) as is granted to others in a state. Thus, if slots are permitted at the tracks, tribes would be entitled to them as well. However, some feel that slots would entitle the tribes to much more than that.
In Connecticut, Indian tribes were able to open casinos because the state allowed "Las Vegas nights" for charities. Massachusetts has the same law on Las Vegas nights, wrote John Giorgio, a lawyer with Kopelman and Paige. He said all the Massachusetts tribes are missing is the legalization of slot machines.

“If video slot machines are permitted at racetracks, federally recognized Indian tribes will then be able to operate such machines on Indian lands within the Commonwealth..”

“Further, some case law supports the position that because casino gambling is allowed under certain conditions (I.e., at “Las Vegas nights,”), recognized Indian tribes may engage in such activity on Indian lands.” [South Coast]
In what turned out to be unfortunate timing for the racetracks, just last week a second tribe seeking to open a casino on the mainland off Cape Cod was given federal recognition, and this gave slots opponents extra ammunition.

At least, as reported by Railbird, the legislature reinstituted simulcasting, which will allow Suffolk Downs and other tracks to reopen.