Quincy City Councilor and Democratic State Senator John Keenan will meet with Abington and Braintree residents in two town forums this week to discuss casino gambling legislation.
The legislation would authorize three casinos to be built in three areas of Massachusetts – one in western Massachusetts, and two in eastern Massachusetts in the northern and southern parts of the state.
The topic has received relatively little attention thus far, but came up frequently during Keenan’s campaign, the senator said.
“I did hear less than a year ago that people are interested in the gambling issue. Some were in favor, some were opposed,” he said. “Those opposed, some were in favor of a more limited number of casinos …some were in favor just of slots, but it was something that popped up.”
As a result, Keenan will take the topic on the road with two community meetings – in both Abington tonight at the Abington Council on Aging on Summer Street at 7 p.m., and at the Viking Club on Quincy Ave tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Braintree.
It’s all in an effort to get a feel for the community’s tolerance level, Keenan said, although already the opposing sides have brought their opinions to light.
According to Keenan, those in favor prefer the legislation for the number of jobs it backers promise, both in construction and in casino jobs. Additionally, it would keep hundreds of millions of dollars in the commonwealth – money that is currently being spent in Connecticut and elsewhere.
Yet those opposed don’t feel that the jobs created are quality ones. Additionally, rather than being an economic generator, it’s more a transfer – money garnered would have to be spent on additional public safety concerns.
The money is also not certain or predictable, opponents say.
The social cost itself is something equally concerning to residents, as gambling addiction is not something many want to bring into the state. They also fear that restaurants in the casinos would take business away from nearby establishments.
Keenan is still undecided on the legislation, he said.
“I assume over the next couple of weeks that what’s proposed will change to some degree and people will make a decision at that point if its something that they can support,” Keenan said.
Additionally, although he’d like to see the state keeping money currently being fed to other parts of the country, Keenan said he remains concerned that there are still too many casinos in the legislation proposal. Regulatory oversight would also need to be advanced and sophisticated.
All in all, the community meetings will be the beginning of a much larger process that could take a year or longer, when all is said and done, Keenan said.
“I think there will be a lot more momentum in the next few months, but there is a lot of regulatory things that need to be implemented. Establishing the commission, and giving them the tools to be able to [oversee the gambling] will take time. It might be a year, it might be longer if the legislation passes,” he said.
Residents from all neighboring communities are welcome to attend either meeting. Those unable to attend a meeting are encouraged to send their comments to Keenan at email@example.com.