Casino repeal could become the issue of the 2014 election

The race for governor is still young, but so far, it’s a contest that’s lacked both star power and sizzle. Early polling shows that the race hasn’t registered with voters. It’s possible that the hottest point of contention in November won’t come from the gubernatorial candidates themselves. Instead, the real heat in November will surround casino gambling.

Yesterday, attorney general hopeful Maura Healey endorsed a proposed ballot question that would repeal the state’s gambling law. Healey announced her stance in a post on the liberal blog Blue Mass Group. “I do not believe a modern economy that is focused on creating opportunities for every person can be built on gambling,” she wrote. “Casinos don’t lay a foundation for diverse economies, they take over.”

In an interview with the Herald, Healey argued that the social and economic costs of casino development outweigh the revenue they generate, arguing, “I don’t want people to get hurt.” The Herald also notes that Healey’s anti-casino position puts her at odds with her former boss, Martha Coakley, who has argued that a casino repeal ballot question would be illegal.

  

Healey’s Democratic primary opponent, former state senator Warren Tolman, told the Herald that he wouldn’t support a casino in his hometown of Watertown, but he noted that the choice to host a gambling facility is “one that a number of communities have made.”

The current crop of gubernatorial hopefuls have avoided having the casino question become a divisive issue in their contest. Only Don Berwick and Jeffrey McCormick have endorsed the repeal question. Charlie Baker recently told the State House News Service that, while he’d rather see one casino than the three the Legislature has allowed, he doesn’t currently support repealing the gambling law. Coakley, who sparked a court fight when she refused to certify a repeal ballot question, has said she doesn’t know how she would vote on a repeal question.

Backers of the repeal effort have a May court date, where they’re expected to argue that if it was legal for voters to ban greyhound racing in 2008, then it should also be legal to put a casino repeal question to voters.

The state’s gambling commission recently licensed its first gaming facility, awarding a slot machine license to the Plainridge Racecourse. The commission isn’t expected to make a decision on a Boston-area casino until the fall; a decision on a southeastern regional casino, which was delayed by legal questions surrounding the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, likely won’t come until after the Boston license is settled.

Polling on a hypothetical repeal question has been mixed. A new poll from Western New England University found ample support for the state casino law among registered voters. A February poll from Suffolk University had the question much closer, but still had support for the casino law at 51 percent. A March WBUR/MassINC Polling Group poll had opponents of casinos closing to within three points of supporters.

–PAUL MCMORROW  

BEACON HILL

The House’s budget chief, Rep. Brian Dempsey of Haverhill, comes through, delivering $2.4 million for his hometown’s hospital, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Salem News slams docile Democratic House members and House Speaker Robert DeLeo in an editorial entitled “the silence of the sheep on Beacon Hill.”

The Berkshire Eagle has no patience for the House’s refusal to consider Gov. Deval Patrick‘s candy and soda taxes, especially since early education programs would have benefited.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Three candidates bypassed for hiring by the Quincy police in favor candidates with lower scores filed an appeal with the state’s Civil Service Commission. Among the 16 new officers who were hired are the nephew of the mayor, the son of a police captain, and the daughter of a city councilor.

Marty Walsh arrives at the 100-day mark in his tenure as mayor of Boston.

Paul McMorrow says the key to the problem of too many cars and not enough parking in Boston is to stop creating more parking spaces for cars.

Emily Ruddock is named Lynn’s first culture chief, the Item reports.

MARATHON BOMBING

The Globe wraps its print edition of the paper on the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing in a remarkable photograph taken at the finish line that includes scores of people with some connection to that fateful day. Among those in Boston to mark the date: Jun Lu and Ling Meng, whose only child, Lingzi Lu, was killed by the bombs, who traveled 7,000 miles from their home in China. Jeff Bauman pens a thank-you letter to Boston. The New York Times reports on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev‘s life inside jail.

NATION/WASHINGTON

A 73-year-old white supremacist is being charged with killing three people outside two Jewish community facilities in Overland Park, Kansas.

Rhode Island ‘spension battle heads to court, Governing reports.

ELECTIONS

A new poll shows US Rep. John Tierney and Republican Richard Tisei deadlocked in their race for Congress, the Eagle-Tribune reports. Tisei lays out his election strategy in the current issue of CommonWealth.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The developer of the stalled mixed use project on the former naval air station in South Weymouth backed off a deadline demand of today that Weymouth town councilors approve a home rule petition for sweeping changes on oversight of the development.

On tax filing deadline day, The New Republic‘s Jonathan Cohn offers a paean to public-sector levies.

Rents are soaring out of the reach of middle-class workers across the country.

Google buys Titan Aerospace, a maker of solar-power drones, the Wall Street Journal reports.

EDUCATION

The MetroWest Daily News likes what it sees in the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education’s call to move beyond a focus on standardized tests.

The schools chief in Burlington offers advice to other municipalities trying to gear up to offer standardized tests to students online.

HEALTH CARE

A federal judge declined to issue an injunction on the state ban of the controversial prescription painkiller Zohydro. Judy Foreman, writing for WBUR’s CommonHealth blog, analyzes the issues facing the judge.

Tufts Medical Center and Lowell General Hospital are forming an affiliation to help them better compete the fast-changing world of health care consolidations. The Lowell Sun report is here. CommonWealth analyzes the way health networks are trying to lure physician groups to their side, with one doctor saying it’s become free agency for primary care doctors.

Paul Levy says Democratic gubernatorial candidate Don Berwick will call for a single-payer health care system in Massachusetts in a campaign speech at Boston University School of Medicine tomorrow.

The Congressional Budget Office projects the premiums for coverage offered by the health-insurance exchanges will be lower than expected, the Wall Street Journal reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Former Massachusetts transportation secretary James Aloisi says Silver Line service needs to be expanded.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A UN panel on climate change is calling for the elimination of carbon emissions by the end of the century.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Bristol district attorney and the State Police are investigating the death of an inmate at the Bristol County House of Correction last week.

A grand jury is investigating a Stoughton woman for what prosecutors say is “one of the worst cases of elder abuse and neglect we’ve ever seen.”

MEDIA

The Boston Globe is awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the breaking news category for the paper’s coverage of last year’s Boston Marathon bombing.

Eight nonprofit news sites receive funding from the INNovation Fund, a collaboration of the Knight Foundation and the Investigative News Network, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.