WORCESTER -- Governor Deval Patrick said today that he would send a more limited casino gambling bill back to the Legislature, stripped of any free-standing slot parlors, and called upon lawmakers to accept the change.
The new version of the bill would allow for three resort-style casinos, but no slot machines at the state's racetracks -- a provision adamantly demanded by House lawmakers.
"I will not support anything else," Patrick said at a National Guard event in Worcester.
If the Legislature does not agree to the change, Patrick said he will veto the casino legislation, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature yesterday after months of tense negotiations.
"I have been advised that vetoing will be politically unwise," Patrick said. "If that is the case, then so be it. This [three resort-style casinos] will serve our best long-term economic and social interests."
Patrick also dismissed growing speculation that a provision in the gambling bill passed last night would give him the power to approve three casinos without allowing the race track slot parlors that House lawmakers have adamantly demanded.
Published reports this morning said that overlooked language in the bill states only that the new gambling regulatory commission "may" award licenses for two slot parlors at the race tracks; it does not mandate the issuing of these licenses.
Several lawmakers argued that this paves the way for Patrick -- who only wants resort casinos -- to simply sign the bill and use his regulatory power to bar the slot parlors that are also included in the legislation.
But Patrick said he controls only one seat on the five-member regulatory panel.
"I only get one appointment so it's a little disingenuous to say that will allow me to influence the commission," Patrick said.
In the waning hours of the 2009-2010 legislative session last night, the House and Senate gave overwhelming approval to a casino bill that approved three resort style casinos and slot machines at two of the state's four racetracks.
In a press release today, the governor congratulated members of the Senate and House for a "very successful and productive" legislative session, saying the legislative measures "will make a lasting difference in the lives of Commonwealth residents."
Patrick also reiterated his opposition to slots at tracks, promising that he will send the bill back with an amendment to address this issue. "I call on the Legislature to accept the amendment promptly so that we can provide the good jobs at better wages and benefits that we all agree are available in destination resort casinos," he said in the release.
The governor had previously said he would only agree to one slot parlor and only if it were not promised to one of the tracks.
He now could either veto the legislation or amend it so that it no longer included slot parlors. In either case, the Legislature would have to come back into session to vote on his actions -- a step that the Senate, at least, has said it will not take.
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