BOSTON — Rep. Brian Dempsey of Haverhill voted in 2008 to reject Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to license three casinos in Massachusetts.
Dempsey joined 107 colleagues to sink the plan, which the governor promised would bring thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue to Massachusetts.
But a lot has changed since then.
With the state announcing yesterday that the unemployment rate climbed to 9.5 percent in January, Dempsey is now helping House Speaker Robert DeLeo, in his post for a year now, advance a proposal to bring two casinos to Massachusetts and install slot machines at the state's four racetracks.
For DeLeo to succeed, he'll need to rely on the conversion of dozens of lawmakers, whose wide-ranging concerns about the last proposal - led by the loudest critic of all, former Speaker Salvatore DiMasi - caused them to deal the governor a defeat that resonates two years later.
Dempsey said the high jobless rate is "causing many members to rethink their position," adding that lawmakers may still need "to be convinced" to change their positions on expanded gambling.
Turning votes isn't the only challenge facing DeLeo.
Hours after DeLeo offered some additional details of the plan he is crafting, the governor told reporters that racetrack slots would be a deal-breaker "as it stands now." He stopped short of issuing a veto threat, but if lawmakers fail to bring together two-thirds of the House and Senate to support slots, Patrick would have the upper hand.
"We don't get the jobs at the same number or at the same wage level with slots at the tracks as we do in the full-blown resort setting," he said. I think we get all the human impact without the economic upswing."
Critics of slot parlors say they prey on gambling addicts and those least able to afford spending their paychecks on slots.
Patrick said he hopes "we update the economic analysis because conditions continue to evolve."
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation earlier this week also questioned the jobs promises historically attached to expanded gambling proposals and indicated it would likely analyze any new claims.
"I'm still opposed and I hope that people really run the numbers on these things," said state Rep. Daniel Bosley, a North Adams Democrat.
Noting slot machines account for the bulk of gambling facility revenues, Bosley said DeLeo's plan allows "at least six casinos really." He predicted investors would also look to launch Indian casinos in Massachusetts, further diluting the potential market and taxpayer benefits if Beacon Hill moves to legalize casinos.
Join the discussion. To comment on stories and see what others are saying, log on to eagletribune.com.