Saturday, 2:15 PM
By Matt Viser and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
The House voted 108-46 this evening to defeat a proposal to license resort casinos in Massachusetts, rejecting one of Governor Deval Patrick’s cornerstone economic initiatives.
The vote came after nearly six hours of debate on House floor, where members sparred over the benefits and ills of expanded gambling. They argued over whether the bill received a fair committee hearing, and whether it was inevitable that Native Americans would eventually expand gaming in Massachusetts.
In the end, House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi made good on his prediction that the governor's plan would fail.
Members voted overwhelmingly at about 6:15 p.m. for an amendment that effectively killed the governor's bill by sending it to a study committee. A proposal that the vote be reconsidered failed to get enough support.
DiMasi portrayed the vote as a victory for the people of Massachusetts over "big money special interests," saying House members had "withstood incredible pressure from the deep-pocketed gambling industry, unions and the Governor's office."
"The debate on casino gambling is over," DiMasi said in a statement issued this evening. "We will move on and the House will continue to work collaboratively with the Governor and the Senate to grow our economy in meaningful ways."
The governor's office issued a statement saying that Patrick appreciated the help of all the legislators who had supported his proposal.
"The Governor looks forward to continuing to work with House and Senate leadership and members to push our comprehensive jobs creation and economic development agenda," Kyle Sullivan, a spokesman for the governor, said in a statement.
Some casino backers had begged for more time to consider Patrick's proposal, saying that DiMasi and other House leaders had used heavy-handed parliamentary maneuvers to turn votes against it Wednesday in a committee hearing.
"We have not given this bill due process," implored Martin J. Walsh, a Democrat from Boston. "We have not had a fair hearing on this bill."
"We owe it to the people of the Commonwealth, the people of Massachusetts, and the people of our districts to take more time," Walsh said.
That view was not shared by Representative Daniel E. Bosley, an ardent gaming critic who was the House chairman of Wednesday's hearing, which lasted 13 hours.
"It was an excellent hearing," Bosley said. "It was a full hearing -- everyone was heard -- and then we put a bill out, and it was a bill with an adverse report."
Representative Brian Wallace, a Democrat from South Boston, interrupted Bosley to ask whether the federal recognition of the Mashpee Wampanoag will allow the tribe to open a casino in the state in two years -- no matter what the state decides.
"Is there a possibility? Yes," Bosley said. "Is inevitable? No."
The vote to defeat the bill in the full House came after a day of frenzied, behind-the-scenes wrangling, secret vote counts, and last-minute deals in which DiMasi orchestrated a narrow committee vote against the proposal.
The committee vote was closer than had been expected as recently as last week, as senators and Republicans on the committee swung the governor's way over the final two days. After an initial vote Wednesday produced a tie and a parliamentary dispute, House leaders delayed a final vote for four hours, which gave them time to come up with something more decisive.
Ultimately, DiMasi engineered the 10-to-8 vote in the committee against Patrick's plan by changing the vote of a Republican House member, Richard J. Ross of Wrentham, at literally the last minute. After the intense arm-twisting and DiMasi's victory, the only question for today was how badly Patrick's bill would be defeated in the House.
"I can count," Patrick said last night, acknowledging the inevitable. "I can count."
This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.