In gambling showdown, greed is king

By Michael Jonas

News that things are getting testy among legislators trying to reach agreement on an expanding gambling bill is hardly surprising.  When it comes to jockeying for position in the big-money, high-stakes world of legalized gambling, the long knives are drawn quickly, and the nastiest fights often occur among those who are ostensibly all on the same side.

That’s exactly how things seem to be playing out, with the standoff appearing to center on the House insistence on slot machines at race tracks – a move that Speaker Robert DeLeo apparently sees as his legislative legacy – while the Senate wants only full casinos. Could the failure of either side to budge end up killing any gambling bill for the year? 

That’s exactly what the leading anti-gambling group seems to be hoping, as it seized on the stalemate today and called for the whole effort to be dropped.  “It’s well past time for the speaker and Senate president to stop this greed-driven secret soap opera and focus on producing other bills which will have a positive impact on our Commonwealth,” Kathleen Conley Norbut, president of United to Stop Slots in Massachusetts, said in a statement.

The showdown reminds me of a conversation I had five years ago when reporting a story for CommonWealth on perennial efforts to bring casinos and slot machines to Massachusetts. Tom Grey, president of the National Council Against Legalized Gambling (since renamed the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation), explained how his best allies are often those in the gambling industry.  Grey said he once found himself conspiring with associates of Donald Trump, who were trying to derail a plan for casinos in New York that would cut into The Donald’s interests in Atlantic City.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

From the 2005 CommonWealth story:

“Grey talks about the gambling battle more in the language of the Vietnam War infantryman that he was than the Methodist minister he now is. Grey says he often gets calls from people in the gambling industry who share information with him as part of an effort to do in a rival’s bid. ‘Their greed and their willingness to attack each other is worth two divisions to us,’ he says.”