MASSACHUSETTS CONSIDERS MOVE TO EXTEND GAMBLING
BOSTON — One state where the debate over gambling is now heating up is Massachusetts.
Although the state already has racetrack gambling, a lottery, and bingo, Gov. William Weld (R) is expected to propose this week adding state-sponsored keno and video-poker games as a way to bring added revenues to the state. The governor predicts the initiative will bring in $100 million for fiscal year 1994.
The move has drawn fire from gambling opponents.
State Rep. Thomas Finneran (D) of Mattapan, chairman of the state House Ways and Means Committee, has reservations about the ethics of raising money for the state through gambling.
State Rep. Mary Jeanette Murray (R) of Cohasset opposes video poker because she fears it will lead to a push for casinos.
"I am not in favor of it. Video poker is something that I will fight," she says. "The next step will be: `Now we are to have casinos.' And that is something I don't want to have for this commonwealth. New Jersey is a very good example of this happening with the criminal element being involved and the [crime] that is happening in Atlantic City."
Gambling tends to hurt low-income people especially, she adds. "People who can least afford to get involved with gambling get involved. Welfare checks don't even get home. They are just dropped at the casinos. That's not good. That deprives families of rent and food," she continues.
But like many other state officials, Massachusetts officials insist that gambling is necessary to relieve fiscal woes.
Dominic Slowey, spokesman for the state Administration and Finance office, says the Bay State loses revenues when residents are drawn to Rhode Island and Connecticut, for example, for their existing racetrack gambling games.
"We're constantly looking for ways to raise revenue ... without resorting to new taxes, and it's part of the overall attempt to increase nontax revenues," he says.
Both gambling initiatives need to win legislative approval before they can be implemented. Governor Weld has proposed similar gambling measures in the past two years, but has failed to win legislative backing.