The fight for legalizing casinos in Massachusetts continues as an anti-casino group, Repeal the Casino Deal, said it has acquired more than the minimum number of signatures to have the issue put on the November ballot. The group claims it has about 110,000 signatures that are petitioning the government for another vote to allow casino licenses to be issued in the Commonwealth. Repeal the Casino Deal has been recently created by the consolidation of a number of smaller groups that opposed gambling site construction back in 2011.
The group believes that a decision from the state supreme court will be in favor of casino opponents, and have been increasing their activity statewide. The action started when the State’s Attorney declared that a second vote on casino expansion would violate the rights of the gambling operators as they would lose property rights and not be awarded compensation for the loss, in violation of the state constitution. Because MGM has recently been awarded a license by the gaming board, the issue is no longer an academic legal matter. The court’s ruling is expected before July 9th, so the anti-casino advocates are acting with a sense of urgency.
A few facts concerning this battle may be useful in determining just how weird the process can become. Given the State Attorney’s position, it is not a matter of whether a second vote should be taken but who stands to lose in the event of a repeal of the casino law. For their part, Repeal the Casino Deal needs less than 110,000 signatures out of approximately 6.5 million residents, about 4.4 million who are registered voters, to place the issue back on the ballot. Win or lose, the time and money spent on voting a second time on the issue comes out of the taxpayer’s pockets.
Those 110,000 signatures represent .03 percent of the voting population. Which raises the question, “Who cares?” Obviously the anti-casino groups do, but outside of them it seems that the other 99.97 percent are either unfazed by the existence or in favor of Massachusetts casinos. And of this 99.97 percent, how many will bother voting on the issue should it appear on the November ballot? Should this apathy work in favor of the anti-casino advocates, which is perhaps something they are hoping for, then casinos will be dead in Massachusetts for a long time to come.
What is hidden behind all the legalese and politics is the actual reason anti-casino groups want the November referendum. They argue the right to revisit laws impacting “public morals and welfare.” So despite their arguments for a negative financial impact, the corruption of politicians, and even the potential personal harm it can do to addicted individuals, what the legal position ends up being is, “We want to impose our own morality on the entire Commonwealth because we believe it is good for them.” Remember, there are less than 100,000 signatures thus far.
In the world of state casino licensing, the politics and money end up being used to further an anti-democracy agenda. Voter apathy, regularly present in American elections, is the hope of Repeal the Casino Deal. Influence from big money casino developers on local towns and politicians is commonplace, with the promise of much-needed jobs and economic growth. The people who actually go to the casinos and play are really not interested in all the manipulations these groups go through but instead simply want a place they can go and spend a few hours, and dollars, away from rude teenagers and screaming children. Yes, the chance to win is always a motivator, but most experienced players know going home with what you came with is a winning situation. It is the best way of casting their vote and spending their money in a way that suits them just fine. Pro democracy, no politics.