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Senate Adopts Additional Amendments by Spilka to Expanded Gaming Bill

October 12, 2011

Yesterday, in the fifth day of debating the bill to expand gaming in the Commonwealth, the Senate adopted three of Senator Karen Spilka’s (D-Ashland) amendments aimed at strengthening safeguards and providing additional protections for surrounding communities.

“I have filed these amendments to make sure the needs of surrounding communities are better addressed and understood so we can have the best possible outcome for our towns, our residents, and the Commonwealth as a whole,” said Spilka. “Ultimately, these amendments ensure that our communities and our residents have a voice, a seat at the table, and are able to actively participate in the entire process.”

The first amendment requires the Gaming Commission to consider relative support or opposition to each gaming applicant from the public in the host and surrounding communities when awarding a license.

The second amendment increases surrounding community involvement in the long term mitigation process by allowing each Local Community Mitigation Advisory Committee to appoint one member to the Subcommittee on Community Mitigation – which currently only has representatives from the host communities. Surrounding communities deserve to have a voice on the Subcommittee which has the ability to make decision on how to spend Community Mitigation funding and this amendment ensures that these communities have a seat at the table.

The third amendment requires the applicant to provide information about their proposal to the public and give members of the host and surrounding communities the opportunity for oral or written comment. The comments received must be submitted with their application to the Gaming Commission to ensure a fair and comprehensive analysis and an opportunity for all those impacted to be heard.

Some of the amendments filed by Senator Spilka were already adopted in previous sessions. Highlights include:

  • An amendment that clarifies that the initial studies an applicant is required to provide to the Gaming Commission would not be deemed to prevent the need for corresponding studies and reports prepared for host or surrounding communities to ensure each municipality has the ability to receive impact studies needed to fairly negotiate agreements;
  • An amendment which gives the Commission authorization to provide for reasonable costs of negotiating agreements between municipalities and applicants – the Commission may require applicants to pay these costs since the negotiation process can be burdensome, complex, and expensive for host and surrounding communities, giving them the tools they need to ensure effective and fair representation.

Spilka has already fought hard to include protections for communities that find themselves impacted by another community’s choice to host a gambling facility in the current version of the bill. After hearing from and discussing this issue with many of her constituents and local officials, Spilka submitted amendments to strengthen these community safeguards and ensure that surrounding communities and the public are involved in the entire process.

“Working on my constituents’ behalf to further strengthen our communities is the reason I get up in the morning and their priorities come first,” said Spilka. “As the debate continues, I will keep fighting to protect and support my district’s residents, communities, neighborhoods, and local businesses.”

The debate is scheduled to resume on Thursday, October 13th at 1:00 p.m. Anyone interested can tune into http://masslegislature.tv/?l=sen_video to live stream the debate.

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