Anti-Casino Group Launches Campaign to Support Ballot Question
BOSTON (WGGB) — Anti-casino activists gathered in Springfield on Wednesday to launch their political campaign in support of a November ballot question repealing a 2011 law that opened the door for Las Vegas-style gambling in Massachusetts.
Organizers of the “Yes on Question 3″ campaign say the Springfield visit will be the first formal meetings with Western Massachusetts supporters since the state’s highest court allowed the question to be placed on the ballot in late June.
Former Mass. Attorney General Scott Harshbarger is among the statewide organizers of the group.
“Casinos are a failed and flawed public policy. They do not deliver the promises that are made,” says Harshbarger.
MGM Resorts International has been awarded the state’s first casino license for a planned $800 million casino in downtown Springfield.
Casino opponents cite social costs like problem gambling, an increase in crime and cannibalization of small businesses in their anti-casino message.
They say they will take that message to all corners of the Commonwealth.
“The more casinos are talked about, the more folks come to get educated, and they come and find us on the web as well, and they educate themselves, come to the issue and realize that casinos are bad not just for their community but the entire Commonwealth,” says John Ribeiro, campaign chairman of Repeal the Casino Deal.
The latest polls show that Massachusetts voters support casinos in the Bay State, but casino opponents say the race is neck and neck.
Governor Patrick in Springfield on Friday predicted that voters will keep the gaming law in place.
It calls for building three casinos in Massachusetts including the MGM casino in Springfield.
“I do think that at the end of the day the voters will affirm and decide to keep the existing casino law because I think it’s a very modest expansion of gaming and it gives local communities the ability to make a decision that they think is right for them,” says Governor Patrick.
But opponents feel the tide is turning in their direction.
“This is all about democracy. If casinos can persuade people and make promises that they think people will keep, so be it, but I believe people will prevail on this one over money,” Harshbarger adds.
Meanwhile, MGM released a statement which in part reads: “MGM Springfield has always believed in Springfield’s right to choose its path forward and we believe the voters of the Commonwealth want to support this Gateway city’s comeback story as much as we do,” says Carole Brennan, MGM Springfield spokesperson.