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Cardinal O’Malley, 3 other bishops back effort to repeal casino law

The state’s four Roman Catholic bishops on Monday formally backed the effort to repeal Massachusetts’ casino law at the ballot in November, releasing a statement that leans on economic and moral arguments.

The statement said the church “views gambling as a legitimate form of entertainment when done in moderation,” but “expanded gaming in the Commonwealth opens the door to a new form of predatory gaming.”

The bishops urged voters to support Question 3, which would repeal the 2011 law that permits up to three casinos and one slot-machine parlor in the state.

“The gambling industry threatens local businesses, weakens the moral fabric of society, and fundamentally alters communities for decades to come,” the bishops said. “Three destination resort casinos and a ‘slots’ parlor will saturate the entire state, diminishing our rich heritage and history.”

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The statement was signed by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, Bishop Robert J. McManus of Worcester, Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, and Bishop George W. Coleman of Fall River.

The Committee to Protect Massachusetts Jobs, a casino-funded group that opposes the repeal effort, said it disagreed with the bishops.

“We respect the bishops’ opinion; however, we believe that casino gaming, thoughtfully introduced in the way this plan does, recaptures much of the almost $1 billion that Massachusetts residents spend each year at gaming facilities in other New England states and in the process creates much-needed jobs for communities such as Springfield,” said Justine Griffin, a spokeswoman for the committee.

The bishops played a prominent role in the successful 2012 campaign to defeat Question 2, which would have legalized physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts.

But James F. Driscoll — executive director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the church’s public policy arm — said it was not clear if the bishops will take as active a role in the casino fight.

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“There’s no plan in place right now to do a more coordinated effort,” he said in an interview.

The bishops last spoke out against casinos in 2011, when Governor Deval Patrick and state lawmakers enacted the law.

In their statement Monday, the church leaders pointed to the falling unemployment rate to argue that the state’s economy is “clearly more robust” than it was three years ago. Meanwhile, casinos in New Jersey and Connecticut are struggling and closing, the bishops said.

“We are concerned that the Commonwealth will be forced to rely on an unstable form of revenue, depending largely on those addicted to gambling,” the bishops said. “They are the citizens who are already among the ranks of the poorest in the community, the ones who can least afford to gamble.”


Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@
globe.com.