By Rob Carter
BU News Service
While most of the focus on the election this November is on the presidential race, Massachusetts voters will also be asked to cast votes on four ballot initiatives, the first of which is whether to issue an additional slots parlor license.
If passed, Ballot Question One would allow the state to issue its second type-two gaming license. These licenses allow for electronic gaming, like slot machines and electronic blackjack, but not traditional table games found in full casinos. The state already has one such parlor in Plainville, called Plainridge Park, as well as licenses for three full casinos.
While not guaranteed, the license would likely go to developer Eugene A. McCain Jr. He hopes to build a new parlor in Revere near the Suffolk Downs race track.
Proponents of the initiative say its passage would give Massachusetts an economic boost and millions of dollars in additional tax revenue.
Nick Connors, campaign manager for Yes to Ballot Question #1, said the construction of the slots parlor would create 1,000 temporary jobs for the state, and an additional 300 to 400 permanent jobs running the parlor once it has been built.
Connors said that all revenue would be taxed at 49 percent, the majority of which is put into the state’s local aid fund. In this way, Plainridge Park raised $88 million for the state in tax dollars in its first year of operation according to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s report in August.
Opponents of the ballot question, like Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, say the success of Plainridge can’t be assumed of this Revere project because the demand isn’t there.
“When we were discussing the casino bill last year, there was an economic impact study done,” said Curtatone. “It said we could only support three casinos and one slot parlor.”
Curtatone also spoke out more generally about slot parlors, which he calls “predatory.” He said they target lower and middle-class families “taking money from Main Street with the hope of winning on easy street.”
Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo also spoke out against the ballot question at a press conference, clarifying his that his opposition “isn’t about being pro- or anti-gaming — it’s about good and bad ideas.” Arrigo criticized the proposal as “shoddy,” noting that “it even has the wrong address in the local referendum.”
The local referendum Arrigo was referring to was a non-binding vote for Revere residents taken on October 18 on whether to approve the proposed gaming license. Revere residents voted to oppose the plan nearly 2-1. As the vote was non-binding, the license could still be issued should the statewide election go differently.
For now, Massachusetts voters are siding with Mayors Arrigo and Curtatone, according to a WBUR poll taken the second week of October. The No vote currently leads Yes, 58 percent to 34 percent, with 8 percent undecided.
Infographic: Karli Bendlin