Casinos – who will blink?

The Globe outlines the stand-off that now exists between the Governor and the legislature over casinos. As I understand it, all parties (the Governor, the House and the Senate) agree on three Las Vegas style destination resort casinos but differ when it comes to placing slot machines in the state’s four race tracks (creating so-called “racinos”). The House favored slots in all four, the Senate and the Governor wanted none. On Friday, in the midst of House-Senate negotiations, the Governor said he would assent to a single racino but when the conference committee returned its final bill there were two. That’s what passed both chambers yesterday just before the year’s legislative session ended. The Governor has been steadfast in asserting he will veto any bill with more than one racino. He has ten days to veto or sign the bill; if he does neither, the bill becomes law. What will happen now?

I believe we are witnessing some high-level political brinksmanship right now. With the Senate initially opposed to racinos, I suspect the House will relent and allow the legislation to go forward with just one. The House may believe that the Governor cannot afford to not have this bill go through and expect him to blink first. I suspect that would be a miscalculation because should the Governor back down now, he will look weak and subservient to the legislature and the political cost of that would greatly outweigh the cost of not getting the casinos done.

I guess I’m with the Governor and the Senate on this one. Visiting a resort casino is not on my list of the 100 Things to Do in Life, but many people I know and respect thoroughly enjoy their outings to Foxwoods and who am I to judge how they spend their leisure time and money. If a comparable facility was available within Massachusetts, so much the better. The racinos are another story. To me, they seem to be more about keeping alive rapidly fading race tracks than they are about economic development. If racing is soon to become a relic of the past, tossing in 1000 slot machines won’t save it. And while the resort casinos offer more than just gambling – hotels, restaurants, shows, shopping – a facility with nothing but slot machines seems like nothing more than a place where people can be relieved of a lot of their money for not much in return.

Whatever happens, I’m sure the behind-the-scenes maneuverings are fascinating. We’ll never know what’s really going on, but even the parts that are made public are worth watching.