EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Latest News

July 1, 2014

Budget gambles on 'phantom' casino revenues

BOSTON — Lawmakers approved a $36.5 billion state budget that relies on $73 million in casino revenues that could evaporate if voters repeal the state’s casino gambling law come November.

The budget, passed by the Senate and House of Representatives on Monday, hours before a midnight deadline, increases spending for local aid, transportation, health programs, housing and education. Those initiatives are funded in part by $53 million in license fees expected from casino developers and $20 million in slot revenue.

But that money could disappear if voters repeal the casino gambling law, as they will be asked to do in a ballot question Nov. 4.

“At a time when trust in the Legislature is at all-time lows, you’d think legislative leaders would have more smarts than to balance the state budget on money they know full well might not exist in a few months,” said John Ribeiro, chairman of group Repeal the Casino Deal, in a statement. “It’s time for the Legislature to not compound their mistakes on government-sponsored casinos and do the right thing by not relying on this phantom revenue.”

Sen. Stephen Brewer, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the casino money was added to Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget long before the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling last week that cleared the way for the referendum on the November ballot. Brewer, D-Barre, said lawmakers are “following the developments” on the referendum.

“We’re prepared for contingencies,” he said. “If the repeal is approved, we will address that.”

Brewer said lawmakers used “conservative” revenue estimates for the final budget. He suggested the state might not even need the casino money if there’s an uptick in the economy or tax revenue.

“And that’s entirely possible,” he said.

Casino operators and supporters are gearing up for what’s expected to be an expensive campaign to convince voters to keep gambling in the state ahead of the Nov. 4 referendum. But they are also awaiting the outcome of the vote before making multimillion-dollar investments that could be dashed if the vote doesn’t go their way.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News

AP Video
Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament
Photos of the Week