Legislative panel shuts doors to Mass. casino foes

July 8, 2010

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BOSTON—A six-member panel has begun secret deliberations on a final version of a Massachusetts casino bill.

In one of their first actions, the panel voted to shut the meeting to outsiders, forcing several lawmakers opposed to casinos out of the room. Reporters were also barred.

It's typical for so-called "conference committees" to negotiate bills behind closed doors.

But casino opponents, including Democratic Sen. Susan Tucker of Andover, said they'd hoped to be allowed to watch the deliberations.

The panel, made up of three House members and three senators, is charged with crafting a compromise between the House and Senate bills.

A possible stumbling block is the question of slot machines at racetracks. The House bill allows 750 slots at each of the state's four racetracks. The Senate bill doesn't.

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