Fight over casino repeal effort heard before state’s highest court

casino referendum
Credit: Getty Images

The effort to repeal the state’s expanded gambling law is now in the hands of the state’s highest court.

Lawyers for the casino repeal effort and the state argued before the state Supreme Judicial Court on Monday in an attempt to persuade the justices over whether or not the voters can decide to repeal the expanded gaming law.

Members of the repeal effort have sued Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office after the agency rejected their ballot initiative to have the voters decide in November whether to overturn the state’s 2011 expanded gaming law.

“There is a very strong policy disagreement here about what should happen and that is simply one more reason why this matter should go to the voters,” said Attorney Thomas Bean, a lawyer for the repeal effort.

Justices questioned Bean as to whether they should consider the proposed ballot question even after the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has already awarded a slots parlor license.

“So a five-year exclusive license that has already been awarded after a thorough process as outlined by the legislature, at great cost to the applicant, can simply be taken away with a big never mind,” asked Justice Robert Cordy.

“Yes,” Bean replied.

In a brief filed before Monday’s oral arguments, state Solicitor Peter Sacks, representing the attorney general’s office, wrote that the proposed ballot question and law could not be certified because it takes private property, in the form of an implied contract between the gaming commission and the applicant, without any compensation.

The court was expected to take weeks or months before issuing a ruling.

Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.


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