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Massachusetts Lawmakers Approved New Bill to Allow Three State Resort Casinos

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Massachusetts lawmakers approved a bill yesterday that licenses up to three resort-style casinos and a single slots parlor in the state, reported Salem News. The bill faces another final vote in the House and Senate today.

Backers say the new casinos will pull revenue that was going to casinos in neighboring states, such as the Mashantucket-based Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville.

The Boston Globe reported that two top State House officials said the bill is being reworked due to objections about cuts to local aid, which included a shift of $10 million to a horse racing development fund. The fund would go toward increasing the size of horse racing purses, hiring industry employees, adding breeding farms, and offering other assistance such as health and pension benefits for horse racing workers.

The bill was on its way to reach Governor Deval Patrick's desk by end of day yesterday. Patrick, a supporter of casino gambling, killed a bill in last year's legislation because it allowed two slot parlors at Massachusetts racetracks. This time, he has said he would not object to a single slots parlor, in spite of his firm stance that slot parlors would diminish the value of casinos.

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The legalization of expanded gambling in the state is expected to start a race for licensing rights for the three casinos and the slots parlor. The locations are not yet determined.

Supporters predict the new resort casinos will create as many as 15,000 jobs in Massachusetts, including 6,000 temporary construction jobs, and generate at least $300 million in new annual revenue for the state and its cities and towns. Former state Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, who leads an anti-casino group, has harpooned the revenue projections as "wildly optimistic," also calling them outdated, based on pre-recession data.

Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, released a statement today welcoming the bill's approval. “Today is an important day for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and our neighbors. We’re excited to get to work quickly on a destination resort casino that will bring jobs, revenue, and increased tourism to southeastern Massachusetts.”