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DeLeo Uses Company Line When Discussing Gambling Expansion

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Lawmakers in Massachusetts spent a lot of crucial time this year trying to expand gambling in the state. Sensing that residents may be a little upset with the process, House Speaker Robert DeLeo has now made the assertion that gambling will not be his top priority in the new year.

DeLeo was one of the driving forces behind gambling expansion talks in the legislature this year. Along with Senate President Therese Murray and Governor Duval Patrick, DeLeo convinced fellow lawmakers that gambling expansion was beneficial to the state. The three leaders, however, did not agree on the type of expansion.

The House Speaker wanted slots at state race tracks. That came largely because the area in which he represents has struggling tracks that could be helped by adding the slots. Governor Patrick was against the slots, instead pushing for casino resorts.

The lawmakers held intense negotiating sessions in which they attempted to iron out their differences. The House and Senate finally signed off on a new law, but Patrick vetoed the measure, sending it back to the lawmakers for corrections. That infuriated legislators before they broke for the year.

In January, the gambling issue was expected to be among the top priorities, but DeLeo denied that idea this week. Instead, DeLeo said that his top priorities will be the health care debate and the state budget. Of course, the gambling expansion could be directly tied to those budget talks.

Governor Patrick won re-election this month despite delivering on his promise from his last campaign of bringing casino resorts to Massachusetts. Residents may have decided that Patrick was close to accomplishing his goal, therefore giving him another term to do so.

A key for Patrick will be reconciling ideas with DeLeo. When DeLeo became House Speaker it was assumed that the state would soon have casino-type gambling. His predecessor, Salvatore DiMasi, helped squash Patrick's first attempt at expansion. It was not known at the time that DeLeo's insistence on slots at the tracks would be an obstacle that would stall the expansion plans.

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