SJC Rules Repeal of Mass. Casino Law Can Go To Ballot

Massachusetts’ casino law could be repealed by a vote this November after the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled on Tuesday that it could be included on the ballot.

Attorney General Martha Coakely had previously ruled that such a question would be unconsitutional because it would force casino developers to lose property without being compensated for it. Today’s court ruling overturns that finding and calls into question a casino license and slot parlor license that have already been granted to developers in Springfield and Plainville, respectively. The law allows for three casino licenses in total and only the one slot parlor license.

Coakley issues a statement on the ruling shortly after it came down.

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“I am pleased that the SJC has ruled on this matter, and it is now an issue that will be decided by the voters in the fall,” the statement read. “My office had conducted a legal review of this ballot question, but knew it would ultimately be decided by the Court. My office worked cooperatively with both parties to put this issue before the Court. Now, with today’s decision, voters will have the final say.”

The Boston Globe reported that the decision is expected to create a fervent appeal to voters from both sides of the issue.

From The Boston Globe:

The campaign is expected to draw significant national interest — and money.

“This is going to be a multi-million-dollar campaign, no doubt about it,” said Springfield political strategist Anthony Cignoli, who has closely followed the development of the state’s casino industry.

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“This is a very historic ballot question,” said Les Bernal, director of the national anti-casino group, Stop Predatory Gambling, in a recent interview. “It will be the first time in modern history for a citizen-led effort to repeal government sponsorship of casinos.”

The group will encourage its supporters to help fund the anti-casino campaign in Massachusetts, he said.

For the applicants pursuing casinos in Massachusetts, the vote puts roughly $1.7 billion a year in projected gambling revenue at risk. The companies are expected to spend heavily to protect their access to the emerging Massachusetts market.

You can read the SJC’s full decision below:

Massachusetts Supreme Court decision on casino ballot question