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Mass. gov says he'll never support no-bid slots

By Glen Johnson
AP Political Writer / August 4, 2010

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BOSTON—Lawmakers are risking the tax revenues and jobs that would come with building three casinos by demanding Massachusetts also create slot machine parlors guaranteed to the state's racetrack owners, Gov. Deval Patrick said Wednesday.

During his monthly appearance on WTKK-FM, the Democrat said, "I'm never going to agree on a no-bid contract for the slot parlors."

An expanded gambling bill approved by the House and Senate on Saturday authorized three casinos and two slot parlors. The legislation limited the bidding for the slot licenses to the owners of the state's four existing racetracks: Suffolk Downs, Wonderland, Raynham and Plainridge.

Yet Suffolk and Wonderland are working jointly on a casino plan, leaving just Raynham and Plainridge as the most likely to get the two slot licenses.

Patrick returned an amended bill to the Legislature on Monday, seeking just three casinos and no slot parlors. He urged lawmakers to approve what everyone has agreed upon and leave the disagreement to a future session.

But House Speaker Robert DeLeo, the staunchest advocate for the slot parlors, has said that is unacceptable. The bill will either die or Patrick has vowed to veto it if the Legislature rejects the amendment.

The governor, seeking re-election this fall, harkened back to his 2006 campaign by railing against the bidding restriction during his radio appearance.

"That's an inside deal. That's a no-bid contract. And I won't support it," he said. "We have got to stop doing this thing, that has characterized the business on Beacon Hill for a long time, of making sure the fix is in for a couple of our friends, a couple of powerful friends, and letting the best long-term interest of the commonwealth take a backseat."

Patrick's gambling advocacy has hurt him with some of the liberal groups that supported his campaign four years ago. Many believe gambling preys on the disadvantaged.

The governor has argued that the long-term job creation of casinos outweighed the social risks of expanded gambling, but he says the slot parlors generate little job creation but a disproportionate share of social problems.

Nonetheless, last week he offered a compromise: He said he would support one slot parlor, as long as it was competitively bid, if lawmakers accepted the three casinos and also passed a raft of other waiting legislation.

Patrick said on WTKK that "I swallowed hard" to make the compromise, an offer he has since retracted.

The governor said: "This was a big step for me because I don't believe that slot parlors are right for us. I think we get much, much more social harm relative to the jobs and the revenue, but the point was to try to move this thing, so we could get the casino debate out of the way and move all this legislation that was stuck behind it."

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