POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

You Can Bet On It

by David Trumbull - April 30, 2010

On Saturday, May 15th, Suffolk Downs in East Boston opens the season of live thoroughbred racing. The grand old track, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, has been in the news lately as part of the efforts to bring casino gambling and other forms of gaming to Massachusetts.

I’m a fan of Suffolk Downs, and I appreciate the number of jobs the track provides right here in the City of Boston. That’s why I’m very sympathetic to the legislature’s plans for limited expansion of gambling in the Commonwealth—two resort-style casinos and 3,000 slot machine parlors at the state’s four racetracks.

Those who say that we should have competitive bidding for locations rather than “giving” the slots to the tracks—although having the track pay a $15 million licensing fee is not exactly “giving it away”—miss an important point. Nearly everyone agrees that there can be a downside to gambling. We’ve all heard the stories of badly implemented casinos schemes in some cities that, rather than bringing the promised jobs and tourists, ending up blighting the area. Suffolk Downs and the state’s other three tracks, which for years have been allowed to offer parimutuel betting, have demonstrated that can handle responsibly the management of a gambling operation.

The bill, H.4619, passed by a large majority, 120 to 37, meaning that about three out of four representatives voted Yea. Support was bi-partisan, with 12 of the 16 Republicans (again three out of four) in favor.

Hurrah for Representative Elizabeth Poirier, Republican, from the 14th Bristol District (North Attleborough, Plainville and part of Mansfield), during the debate on expanding gambling in Massachusetts she offered an amendment to promote the purchase of U.S.-made slot machines. I don’t know if any of those machines are made in Massachusetts, but at least they will be made in the U.S.A. A law that will result in putting people to work—now that’s a good bet.

“I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America,” said Representative Poirier. “Given the current economic climate, I believe it is absolutely necessary that we as a governing body encourage any potential developers to give their business to companies who make and sell slot machines in our country.”

The vote was almost unanimous, with only one member of the House of Representative voting against the common sense proposal.

[David Trumbull is the chairman of the Boston Ward Three Republican Committee. Boston's Ward Three includes the North End, West End, part of Beacon Hill, downtown, waterfront, Chinatown, and part of the South End.]