Casino Ballot Question Is Getting Active

Casino opponents and proponents began ramping up efforts late last week on campaigns to promote their causes for the statewide ballot question that, if successful, could essentially repeal the 2011 casino gaming law.

It will be Question 3 on the November ballot.

The news on the question started last week in Revere when casino opponents from Revere and East Boston boycotted the Aug. 11 Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) hearing at Revere High School.

Organizers of the ‘Yes on 3’ casino repeal campaign took it as the first shot in what will likely be a very vocal discussion.

“Organizers of No Eastie Casino, Don’t Gamble on Revere, Friends of East Boston, and Friends of Revere all announced they were boycotting the final Gaming Commission hearings to draw attention to the sham being foisted on their neighborhoods,” said John Ribeiro, chairman of ‘Yes on 3.’ “Their voices joined that of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who said recently that ‘the gaming commission [is] slanted towards [the casino] industry and not towards the residents… and taxpayers who pay their salary.’ The Gaming Commission and the casino industry will stop at nothing to ensure their profits are protected and Question 3 fails in November. United together across the state in grassroots opposition, we’re confident, that as voters learn more about the casino industry’s broken promises, our support will continue to grow as people realize we have to vote yes to stop this mess.”

Meanwhile, on Monday, the Committee to Protect Massachusetts Jobs launched its campaign advocating a ‘No’ on Question 3.

The Committee is made up of business leaders, elected officials and residents of Revere, Everett, Plainville and Springfield.

The Committee is concentrating much of its efforts on building grassroots support across the state. After just three weeks of organizing, said campaign officials, more than 250 groups and individuals have already joined the effort and the campaign plans to execute an extensive ground effort throughout the fall.

“Between now and Election Day of November 4, we will be engaging voters across the Commonwealth about the benefits that gaming will bring to Massachusetts,” said Wooten Johnson, Campaign Manager for Vote No on Question 3. “There are many benefits to highlight, and a fair amount of misinformation we need to combat.”

What they intend to stress, Johnson said, is that the casino gaming industry will create some 10,000 new jobs and 6,500 construction jobs in areas – such as Revere – where unemployment is already higher than most of the state.

He said they will also ensure communities that already voted to host a casino – Revere voted twice – can get the jobs, business and revenue that they came out and voted for.

Also chief among their concerns, Johnson stressed, is that the state puts an end to exporting money and tax dollars to casinos in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine.

At the same time, the American Gaming Association (AGA) – the national casino gaming lobby group – has made its presence known in Massachusetts and has said previously it would make a concerted effort to correct what it believes to be misinformation spread in the state by those in the ‘Yes on 3’ groups.

“One challenge in Massachusetts now, while in the midst of the proper implementation of gaming by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, is you have a small crowd of critics that are spreading antiquated notions about the industry,” said CEO Geoff Freeman in June. “That campaign they’re running is clearly having an effect on the electorate and recent surveys show that. In the end, Massachusetts voters would need to choose what’s right for them. What you can count on is the AGA being there to make sure the correct story is told about the industry.”

Meanwhile, Repeal the Casino Deal – which is behind ‘Yes on 3’ – announced late last week that it was kicking off its statewide canvassing effort this week.

Ribeiro said the effort would span from Bourne to Cape Cod to Great Barrington and the Berkshires. He said that a statewide, grassroots conglomeration of anti-casino groups would effectively talk to their neighbors and get the word out. He said his group would not have the millions to spend on the campaign that casino advocates have, but a person-to-person message would prevail.

“Knowing full well the casino industry will spend millions—with estimates of $30 million or more—to defeat the repeal, Repeal the Casino Deal will hit the ground, house-by-house and community-by-community,” Ribeiro said. “Slick ads from the deep-pocketed casino bosses won’t make up for the in-person conversations of friends and neighbors.”

Added Campaign Manager Darek Barcikowski, “We’re excited to kick off the next stage of the campaign. Building on the successes in communities from East Boston to Millbury, we’re going to grow our network of support across the Commonwealth. As we engage in conversations with undecided voters from the Cape to the Berkshires, we know that as voters learn more about the casinos, our support will grow to victory on November 4.”

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