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Massachusetts Gambling Bill Requires Cost-Benefit Analysis

7 February 2011 by admin

Steve BrewerA new bill introduced in the Massachusetts Senate could derail or at least delay gambling expansion. If it passes, before any gambling expansion is allowed in Massachusetts, a detailed independent cost-benefit analysis will have to be filed.

The bill, which has the backing of local anti-gambling groups, was proposed by Democrat Senator Steve Brewer. Under his proposal, before the legislature can approve of any type of gambling expansion, whether it’s adding resort-style casinos or simply putting slots in dog tracks, the analysis must be conducted and examined. The cost-benefit analysis would be conducted by an independent group and would be aimed at finding the costs to the community and determining whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

Brewer is the new chairman of the Ways and Means Committee after being recently appointed to that post by fellow Democrat Therese Murray, the Senate President. Brewer insists that he is not morally opposed to gambling and feels that his bill is not an anti-gambling bill. According to Brewer, while he is “not quite a champion” of gambling, he thinks that “if it is going to be done, it should be done right.”

Silly me; I thought that cost-benefit analyses should be conducted before any legislation is passed. Isn’t that how you determine whether something is a good idea? Still, the gambling lobbyists in the state are unhappy with Brewer’s bill, which has 20 cosponsors in the House and Senate.

Brewer’s bill could be a sign that gambling expansion will again face an uphill battle in Massachusetts. Despite having support for gambling expansion on the House, Senate and governor’s office (all controlled by Democrats), the state was never able to get anything done last year. Part of the problem is the inability to get on the same page about what type of expansion was needed. Governor Patrick wanted resort-style casinos, which cost more money and take more time to get up and running. Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, however, wanted slot parlors added to the race tracks, saying that they can be installed quickly and will bring in money and save jobs. Patrick opposed DeLeo’s idea. Patrick and DeLeo seem united, however, on efforts to make online gambling illegal.

If Brewer’s bill passes and the cost-benefit analysis shows that the financial costs to the community outweigh the benefits, any gambling expansion would require a two-thirds vote to pass rather than a simple majority. If that happens, there will be a lot of political and lobbying pressure put on the independent group to make sure their analysis turns out right.

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