Could the Massachusetts House be losing its backbone? Casey Ross reports in the Boston Herald today that, in an informal survey of 111 House members, 65, or 58 percent, say they either support Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to build three casinos in Massachusetts or they’re undecided.
Coupled with this Matt Viser story in the Boston Globe, which says that Patrick is now leaning against building casinos in cities (including Boston and New Bedford), it now looks as though the proposed Middleborough casino may not be quite dead yet.
But wait. This Saturday, Middleborough voters will go to the polls to decide whether three of the five selectmen should be recalled. Brockton Enterprise reporter Alice Elwell has the details, as does Steve Decosta of the New Bedford Standard-Times.
For those of you just tuning in, here’s some more of the back story: All five selectmen support the casino, but two of them were elected or re-elected too recently to be subject to recall. One of those two, Adam Bond, has been the town’s main pro-casino cheerleader. There is a very good possibility that, after Saturday’s vote, three of the five selectmen will be anti-casino.
But will they be able to say so? Take a look at Section 22, Parts B and C, of the agreement (PDF) signed by the selectmen on July 28:
B. The Town will support the Project and agrees to actively work with and assist the Tribe and its contractors and agents to obtain any and all approvals, legislation, liquor licensing or other enactments required for the Project from governmental entities and officials of the United States, the Commonwealth and the Town.
C. The Town will reasonably assist the Tribe in responding to negative comments about the Project, reiterating the Town’s support and the basis therefor.
Part C is a doozy. It says, in effect, that town officials are prohibited from speaking out against the casino, and that if they do, they could be subject to legal action. I am reliably told that the anti-casino candidates for selectmen are puzzling over how much freedom of speech they’ll have if they win election on Saturday.
Meanwhile, I would think that no reporter should quote a Middleborough town official saying anything about the casino plan without noting that said official is legally obligated to say only positive things.
On another front, I join Jon Keller and David Kravitz in praising this Weekly Dig analysis by Julia Reischel and Paul McMorrow, which shows that Patrick’s proposal is pretty much a direct lift from a dubious study conducted by Clyde Barrow of UMass Dartmouth. If you can count cars in the parking lot, you, too, can become a casino expert.
Finally, here is a three-part series on gambling addiction published in April 2006 by the CNHI News Service. CNHI’s Massachusetts papers include the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, the Newburyport Daily News, the Salem News and the Gloucester Times — all of them right in the path of a possible casino, given Patrick’s desire to build one somewhere north of Boston.