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Statement from Senator Karen Spilka

August 26, 2011

“The legislature has debated and voted on expanded gambling in Massachusetts for several years now, and this year it looks closer to becoming a reality than ever before.  I have heard from and discussed this issue with many, many constituents and local officials. They see the value in creating thousands of jobs, but have serious concerns about the negative impacts a casino will have on local communities.  These discussions reinforce my focus to protect and support my district’s residents, communities, neighborhoods and local businesses.

“The bill being considered by the committee does contain protections for communities that find themselves impacted by another community’s choice to host a gambling facility.  In fact, I fought very hard to achieve these protections. Surrounding communities deserve to have a strong voice. I insisted that they have a seat at the table from the beginning and throughout the process.

“Some of these current safeguards include:

“Ensuring that no one part of the state becomes the center of gaming activity, and creating distinct regions to spread these facilities out to different parts of the state;

“Requiring that casino developers address the individual mitigation of impacts in all surrounding communities, including requiring a formal agreement with each surrounding community early in the process, as part of any application, to address problems and compensate each town;  and

“Mandating public involvement in the initial selection of an applicant and the continuing involvement of local officials and organizations as part of a ‘Local Community Mitigation Advisory Committee’ to monitor the ongoing effects of a casino and provide relief for impacts not addressed in the original agreement, including those related to transportation, infrastructure, housing, education, and public safety.

“Over the coming weeks, I will continue to work with residents, officials and local businesses.  However, I must reserve my vote now and when the bill comes to the Senate I will file amendments to make these safeguards even stronger.  We must be sure that when decisions are made the needs of surrounding communities are understood and addressed.

“Working on my constituents’ behalf to further strengthen our communities is the reason I get up in the morning and their priorities and needs come first.  It continues to be an honor and a privilege to represent the 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk District.”

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