Senate rejects amendment allowing all of Boston to vote on casino

State House News Service
Oct. 12, 2011

The Senate on Tuesday rejected Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz’s efforts to allow the entire city of Boston to vote to approve or reject what is expected to be an eventual casino application from Suffolk Downs. The bill stipulates that in cities with more than 125,000 residents – Boston, Worcester and Springfield – only the ward where the casinos would be located must vote to approve.

“This is tantamount to taxation without representation,” Chang-Diaz said, arguing that the entire city will be impacted by casinos and related public safety costs. The Jamaica Plain Democrat also noted that Secretary of State William Galvin penned a memo in September raising concerns about possible legal challenges to the ward-voting plan.

Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, an East Boston Democrat and the sponsor of the language that was first inserted into last year’s gaming bill and carried over this year, said the residents of East Boston deserve the opportunity to decide their own fate after watching their neighborhood change over the past 50 years by the construction of the Big Dig tunnels and Logan Airport.

“It would be a shame if the people of East Boston that have sacrificed so much over the past decades, who have sacrificed for the benefit of this whole region, if they were to be told what to do one more time,” Petruccelli said.

Recalling the fights in South Boston in the late 1990s over a proposed new football stadium for the New England Patriots in his neighborhood, Sen. Jack Hart said gambling opponents were seeking to throw a “monkey wrench” into the bill with amendments such as Chang-Diaz’s in an attempt to create differences with the House to kill the bill.

Sen. Marc Pacheco, of Taunton, also cautioned against tinkering with compromises that have already been reached with the House and governor’s office. “I know there are a lot of loaded torpedoes. Let’s just make sure they don’t hit and sink it again this year,” Pacheco said.

The vote to reject Chang-Diaz’s amendment came just minutes before the Senate scuttled a plan offered by Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) that would have allowed all communities within three miles of a casino to vote on approval, not simply the host community. Sen. Richard Moore cautioned his colleagues that such a provision would make it “next to impossible” to site a casino.

The Senate plans to resume debate on expanded gambling Thursday at 1 p.m.