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High stakes: casino politics in Mass.

August 2, 2010

For now, Rhode Island remains on the sidelines in the regional casino landscape. Meanwhile, the Globe’s Frank Phillips has a good look today at the stakes facing Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick as a casino impass plays out in our neighbor to the north:

If the impasse continues, Patrick is better positioned to cobble together support in the fall election, according to several political analysts, because he blocked slots at racetracks — which gambling opponents decry as particularly corrosive — and can argue to unions that he advocated for job-creating casinos.

Patrick’s posture carries risks, however. Organized labor may yet hold him accountable for the demise of a bill unions dearly wanted, and liberal opponents of casinos may not forgive him for proposing them in the first place. Plus, the monthslong debate over gambling has given ammunition to Republicans, who say he has failed to grapple with far more important economic challenges facing Massachusetts.

“The governor looks principled and determined, but he also looks in a way like he can’t get the job done,’’ said Jeffrey Berry, a Tufts University political science professor who called the probable defeat of resort casinos a “split decision’’ for the governor. Berry said the battle over casinos has “left the Democratic electorate scratching its head.’’

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