Casino Boats to Cambridge?

Weld Floats Plan to Pay for Megaplex; Local Pols Dubious

A proposal to use casino boats to raise money for a new megaplex in the Boston area could face stiff political opposition from Cambridge civic leaders.

The casino boat idea is now being floated by Gov. William F. Weld '66 on Beacon Hill.

City opposition could become highly significant if backers of the proposed megaplex, which would include a convention center and possibly a domed stadium for the New England Patriots football team, plan on using Cambridge land to build a dock for boats which would cruise the Charles River.

While some city politicians expressed lukewarm support for the idea, others said they were strongly opposed.

"I don't think much of it," said City Councillor Francis H. Duehay '55, a former mayor. "I don't think we should employ gambling as a way of funding public projects, or private ones, for that matter."


The issue is new, but has already sparked contentious debate in the state government.

Lt. Gov. A. Paul Cellucci has said that Weld will likely submit the idea of floating casinos as part of a megaplex bill next week. Attorney General L. Scott Harshbarger '64 has already indicated that he opposes the idea, arguing that gambling's financial benefits are outweighed by the costs to society.

Despite their differing attitudes about legalizing gambling on boats, civic leaders were virtually unani- mous in the opinion that Cambridge's main waterway, the Charles River, should not be used for the boats.

"I think it would be highly unlikely you could get a riverboat up the Charles," said David Leslie '69, executive director of the Cambridge Civic Association. "First of all, just getting under the bridges could be tough. And it's also a pretty small river."

"I don't see the Charles as a real good site for a gambling casino," said Councillor William H. Walsh, adding that he is generally open to the idea of floating casinos.

Officials in the offices of the state's two United States senators indicated their bosses did not have opinions on Weld's proposal. State Sen. Michael Barrett '70, a Democrat who represents Cambridge, was in western Massachusetts campaigning for governor yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

But his staff director, Andrew Rudalevige, indicated it was unlikely that Barrett would support the floating casino proposal of Weld, who could be his political opponent in the governor's race next year.

"I'm not sure he has a formal position yet," said Rudalevige. "I think Mike's general sense is when you talk about an expansion of gambling, there are some really large social costs involved."

Walsh and city councillor Sheila T. Russell said gambling might be necessary to raise funds for the megaplex and other projects.

Russell, who even tries to avoid buying Megabucks tickets, said she personally dislikes gambling but "if people are going to spend money gambling, why not here?"

"I'm not a gambler, but I know a lot of people who are," Russell said. "And the floating ones are probably the best, safest way to do it."