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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, March 29, 2010

House rules

Pro-casino gambling forces have launched their first foray in what should be a very different debate this year.

OK, so the tactics are the same -- University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth professor Clyde Barrow counting license plates instead of cards -- coming up with a tantalizing figure of how much cash Massachusetts residents drop in regional casinos.

While the methodology -- dividing casino revenue by the number of plates to determine state spending -- is somewhat rough, the bottom line neighborhood of about $1 billion is enticing. Especially for lawmakers less than thrilled about yet another round of budget cuts as they face an electorate that is both angry and unwilling to give up services.

And of course the biggest difference between Deval Patrick's failed bid for resort casinos in 2008 and today (aside from billions in cuts) is the face of the man holding the gavel in the House, whose budget is due out next month.

Speaker Robert DeLeo -- whose district includes Suffolk Downs and Wonderland -- has made casinos and slots a centerpiece of what he says is an effort to restore blue collar jobs. And he will certainly say a billion dollars in potential receipts is nothing to sneeze at.

The release of Barrow's study is perfectly timed to launch DeLeo's offensive. Look for a long-promised bill to surface very soon, giving House lawmakers a new revenue source that would justify a slightly less painful budget when debate opens on that legislation later in April.

At the very least that could mean continued jobs for DeLeo's charges. And isn't that what employment bills are all about?

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