The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that a measure to repeal the state's casino law may appear on the ballot in November. The decision overrules Attorney General Martha Coakley, who had decreed that the measure could not appear because a repeal would amount to "an illegal 'taking' of contract rights from casino applicants." (I wrote more about her ruling earlier in the year in this post.) It is, of course, not the first time Ms. Coakley has lost, and quite possibly not the last, as she plans to run for governor.
The casino repeal campaign this summer and fall is expected to draw significant national interest — and money.It would appear that in this instance, the anti-casino forces will have access to money, though it seems doubtful that they can match the deep pockets of the interested casino giants; both those who have already been granted licenses (MGM, in Springfield, and Penn National at the Plainridge harness track, a slots-only facility on which they have already begun construction), and those who are still competing with each other for the Boston area license (Mohegan Sun at Suffolk Downs, and Wynn Resorts in Everett).
For passionate casino opponents across the United States, the Massachusetts repeal referendum presents a tantalizing opportunity to defeat an industry that has steamrolled opposition for years, spreading into 39 states.
“This is a very historic ballot question,” said Les Bernal, director of the national anticasino group, Stop Predatory Gambling, in a recent interview. “It will be the first time in modern history for a citizen-led effort to repeal government sponsorship of casinos” to be decided by voters. [Boston Globe]
A repeal would of course presumably have positive effects for New York casinos located not far away. Just an hour and 15 minutes would separate the Springfield casino from the one proposed by our friends at Saratoga harness and Churchill Downs for East Greenbush. In fact, as Capitol Confidential notes, those folks "have touted their site as a way to stop bettors from leaving New York for Springfield."
I don't know if the mechanism exists for citizen casino opponents in New York State to similarly orchestrate a repeal vote; you know how they're all so democratic up there in New England. But it would surely be interesting to see the nature and result of such a campaign here, now that things are not developing the way some assumed they would; and with those who may now be unexpectedly facing the prospect of a casino in their town more attuned to the issues and the arguments against. And it would be especially interesting to see how such a vote would go if the ballot language was neutral, rather than the farcical Advocacy Language that the governor's office helped to sneak through (literally, as the language was not released publicly until after the deadline to challenge it had passed. I wrote quite extensively about the issue last year.) In fact, it may have been interesting to see how the vote would have gone last November if the language was fair, given the results of some polls which posed the question each way.
Well, at least the lesson of the ballot language episode has not gone unheeded. A referendum on the ballot this November will concern a new "independent" redistricting committee which will actually be controlled by the legislature. It is the product of a 2012 agreement between Cuomo and the legislature; specifically with the Republican-controlled Senate who pushed for the arrangement after reneging on their written promises to Ed Koch, when they were in the minority, to support a truly independent redistricting process. Cuomo had previously pledged to oppose anything but, but it became one of the concessions he made to the GOP.
Of course, when it comes to redistricting, Republicans are no worse than Democrats, as demonstrated by this diagram of the district of State Senator Jeff Klein (kind of a Democrat, though perhaps an actual Democratic-to-be).
Anyway, back to my point - Blair Horner of the NYPIRG assures us that he'll be looking out for the release of the ballot language for the referendum by the Board of Elections.
Harking back to what they said was language that was rigged to evoke a “yes” vote on casinos and which came so late as to obviate a legal challenge, Horner and others will watching that closely, which could mean some interesting news later this summer. [Capitol Confidential]So perhaps we won't get fooled again. At least when it comes to referendum ballot language.
- The city of Albany is not getting a casino; at least within the city limits. There may be one right nearby however, and the city's Common Council is seeing what they can get squeeze out of the developers in East Greenbush, Rensselaer, and Schenectady.
City approval isn't needed for any project not within its borders.Well, guess you can't blame them; everyone wants a piece of the pie, and it's surely likely that Albany itself will be affected in some way by a nearby facility. In Massachusetts, applicants are required to complete formal "surrounding community" agreements with their neighbors; so Albany officials seem to be taking a page out of that playbook. The Times Union reports that there is a draft memorandum of understanding for the casinos that deals with money for creating jobs, enhancing public transportation, and promoting tourism.
But the support of the largest city in the region would likely be coveted by developers making their cases to the state. And there was talk, McLaughlin and other lawmakers acknowledged, that the council could convene Thursday evening to consider a resolution backing the proposed Hard Rock-branded casino and hotel on the Rensselaer waterfront, a pending resolution opposing all casino development in the region or some other option that has yet to publicly emerge. [Albany Times Union]
The draft reviewed by the Times Union leaves the proposed dollar amounts for each commitment blank. It also asks developers to participate in a "player's card" program that would offer discounts at county-based businesses.Like I'm so sure that casino gamblers in East Greenbush will be making their way to the Crossgates Mall to shop.
= Jeff Gural and Brian Sears have made peace. As in, Gural has relented after the criticism of his ridiculous and selfish ban and will allow Sears to drive at his racetracks. That's so sweet.