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Pro-casino Group Campaigns To Defeat Massachusetts Ballot Question


A statewide campaign to fight repeal of the Massachusetts casino law had a formal kickoff in Springfield today.

The casino industry-funded Coalition to Protect Mass Jobs held its first official campaign event Tuesday in the downtown offices of MGM Springfield. About 100 local community leaders, business owners, and labor representatives gathered to hear brief speeches and see the first television ad of the campaign, which stars the city of Springfield.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said casinos will produce thousands of jobs in the state and return to Massachusetts the estimated $1 billion Bay State residents gamble each year in Connecticut and Rhode Island.  He said casino revenue would boost local aid payments to all the state’s cities and towns.

" Base your judgment on the facts," urged Sarno.

Sarno, who campaigned hard a year ago to win the local referendum on MGM’s $800 million Springfield casino project, said he did not want to see the will of the local voters overturned.

Question 3 on the November 4th ballot asks voters to repeal the 2011 law that legalized Las Vegas-style gambling in Massachusetts and authorized the licensing of up to three resort casinos and one slots machine parlor.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has assigned MGM the lone casino license available in western Massachusetts and awarded Penn National Gaming the slots parlor license for a so-called racino at harness racetrack in Plainville.  Wynn Resorts won the lucrative greater Boston casino license just last week.

Casino opponents, who had to sue Attorney General Martha Coakley to get the repeal question on the ballot, held a statewide campaign kickoff in Springfield in July.  Pro-casino forces have hardly been sitting idle up to now.

Wooten Johnson, the campaign manager for the pro-casino coalition, said 40,000 pieces of campaign literature have been handed out, 37,000 bumper stickers printed, 2,000 lawn signs put up, and hundreds of volunteers organized to make calls to voters from phone banks across the state.

"We are going to run a very aggressive campaign that is going to be about the facts and let the voters decide," said Johnson.

The first television ad, which started airing statewide Tuesday, focuses on the jobs and other potential benefits the MGM casino would bring to Springfield, which has struggled economically for decades.  The 30-second ad is narrated by Jeff Ciuffreda, the president of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

Ciuffreda said he was pleased to appear in the ad. He said the 800- member chamber of commerce endorsed the MGM project because the casino has pledged to spend $50 million a year for goods and services from local companies.

The repeal the casino law campaign has not aired a campaign ad.  The most recent campaign finance statements show the anti-casino campaign is more than $400,000 in debt.  Campaign leaders have said they’ll run a grassroots – neighbor talking to neighbor – campaign in an effort to duplicate statewide the success casino opponents had last year when voters turned down casino projects in West Springfield, Palmer, Milford, and East Boston.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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