06/24/2014 2:36PM

Repeal of Massachusetts casinos allowed on ballot

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EAST BOSTON, Mass. – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a referendum to repeal the state’s casino law may appear on the November ballot, further adding to the uncertainty hanging over the racing and breeding industries in New England.

Suffolk Downs, the lone surviving Thoroughbred track in New England, partnered with casino titan Mohegan Sun, which is one of two finalists for the sole casino license to be awarded by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for the greater Boston region. The track’s ownership group has been candid in stating that if Mohegan Sun does not secure the license to develop a proposed $1.3 billion casino on the grounds, it will no longer be economically feasible to continue live racing.

Massachusetts in 2011 legalized an expansion of gambling calling for destination resort casinos in three separate regions of the state and a single slots parlor to be situated anywhere. Since then, public enthusiasm for casinos appears to have waned. A poll by Suffolk University this month found that only 37 percent of voters statewide now approve of casinos.

The campaigns for and against repeal through the November election are expected to draw significant national attention and contributions.

In a statement, Mohegan Sun said, “We believe we have the best plan to bring thousands of jobs, world-class entertainment, local economic development, and increased tourism to the region, and that is our focus right now. We will also join the chorus of others making the case to voters on why this law is good for workers, good for the economy, and good for the commonwealth.”

The gaming commission’s timetable calls for awarding the Boston casino license, which is also being sought by Wynn Resorts, in late August or early September. Gaming commission chairman Stephen Crosby released a statement saying in part that the commissioners have the “flexibility to achieve progress in the licensing and regulatory process even in an atmosphere of uncertainty, and we will continue to do so.”