Gaming foes biding their time until the state’s high court cleared a casino repeal ballot question are now being courted to put their money where their mouths are as potentially millions of dollars in advertising money could flow onto Bay State airwaves ahead of a November vote.
“There were people who said, ‘When you’re able to get on the ballot, we’ll step up and help fund your campaign,’” said Darek Barcikowski, campaign manager for the group Repeal the Casino Deal, after the Supreme Judicial Court sided with them Tuesday, giving voters a say on whether to keep the state’s 3-year-old expanded gaming law.
“We will be launching an aggressive fundraising effort, and there have been a lot of people waiting on the sidelines,” Barcikowski said. “Now that we shift gears into a full-blown campaign, it will take a lot more money.”
Group officials declined to say which well-heeled donors they expect to chip in, but they’ve already counted a few in their $175,476 tally by year’s end in 2013, including David D’Alessandro, the former CEO of John Hancock, who gave $10,000 last November, and Alan Lewis, CEO of South Boston-based Grand Circle Travel, who made $70,000 in donations.
“We don’t think we’ll be able to compete with the casino industry on the media buys, for sure,” Barcikowski said. “But we definitely plan to be on the air close to the election. Our focus has mostly been on our ground game, on our grassroots outreach. We don’t think the casinos can compete with us on the ground.”
The law that cleared the way for three casinos and a slots parlor likely will still have support on Beacon Hill.
Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo, one of its biggest proponents, signaled yesterday he’ll use his position’s bully pulpit to tout the law’s “highlights,” including 15,000 jobs and millions in revenue it’s expected to produce.
“I will be active in the sense that I will be out there talking about what … other folks have stated to be one of the strongest casino bills in the country,” DeLeo told reporters, noting that the upcoming budget relies on $53.5 million in gaming revenue and another $20 million from an in-the-works Plainville slots parlor to balance spending.
“Come November, we would have to make cuts to the budget in matters where we’ve already had to place money” if the law is repealed, he said.
Boston Mayor Martin. J. Walsh, who as a state legislator voted for the casino law, said yesterday he doesn’t plan to get involved in the ballot initiative.
“When this bill was filed and passed, it was an economic development bill,” he said. “There was really a problem with jobs and opportunity. And I think the energy of the casino debate has been sucked, I think pro and con. The economy’s doing better; there’s more opportunity now for employment.”