Gambling? Maybe. Smoking? No.
That's the message from the Massachusetts Senate, which voted 24-15 today in favor of an amendment to expanded gambling legislation that would ban smoking in casinos. The vote was a rare rebuke for Senate leaders who wanted to allow smoking in one-fourth of the floor space at the casinos.
As the Senate took up a host of amendments on the second day of debate on the bill, leaders warned that the state will lose as much as $94 million in gambling revenue if it does not allow smoking in its casinos. They pointed out that Connecticut's casinos allow smoking.
"Only in Massachusetts would we have a casino bill and try to build a politically correct casino," said Richard R. Tisei, the Senate Republican leader and candidate for lieutenant governor, urging his colleagues to reject the amendment. "Have any of you people ever been to a casino and understand what it takes for a casino to be successful and to draw people in?"
But supporters of the amendment said second-hand smoke will put casino workers' lives at risk. They pointed out that Massachusetts banned smoking in most workplaces six years ago and that a Harvard School of Public Health study has shown the ban saves 600 lives a year.
"I thought we were trying to create jobs here," said Susan C. Fargo, a Lincoln Democrat who urged her colleagues to approve the amendment. "Why create jobs for people who will sicken and die? This is the most hypocritical thing I've seen in my 14 years in the Senate."
The bill being considered by the Senate would license three casinos in the state.
If the Senate approves a plan to expand gambling, it will have to be reconciled with a bill passed by the House in April, which calls for two casinos and slot machines at the state's racetracks.
On the beat
Columnist Shirley Leung says Boston mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh should focus on middle-class housing. Read more