Bob DeLeo, the House speaker, smiled and listened to cheers from union members yesterday as he announced his plans to expand gaming in Massachusetts with two resort-style casinos, plus 3,000 slot machines at the state's four racetracks. DeLeo hopes to have the bill up for a vote in two weeks without allowing the public to be heard on the matter. “Everything has been studied thoroughly, and we’re ready to go,’’ said the Speaker, according to The Boston Globe.
Of course, everything has not been studied thoroughly and not everyone in the state believes that "we're ready to go." There are many legitimate arguments against casinos and slots, and not allowing for an open and fact-based discussion is clearly undemocratic. DeLeo is apparently pressuring House members to vote with him, but it remains to be seen whether Gov. Deval Patrick and Therese Murray, the Senate president, will stand up against DeLeo, as they have frequently expressed skepticism about allowing slots at tracks (though both back casinos).
As I've written before, step one should be a thorough and unbiased study on the costs, benefits and consequences of expanded gaming. Secondly, state Sen. Anthony Petruccelli's proposal to have referendums in the communities where slots and casinos would be located would seem to make sense. There's no reason for Massachusetts to rush forward on this potentially far-reaching legislation. Let's make the right decision and not go "all in" without looking at the cards we've got.