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US Sen. Warren supports repealing state casino law

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BOSTON (AP) — Anti-gambling activists are touting a major boost from Sen. Elizabeth Warren as their campaign to repeal the state's casino law heads into the final stretch.

The first-term Democrat said Monday she'll likely vote in favor of repealing the 2011 state law that opened the door for Las Vegas-style gambling in Massachusetts. The group Repeal the Casino Deal hailed the remarks as a "bold stand" by one of the state's most prominent politicians. Warren has been mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 2016, even though she has said repeatedly she's not running.

"Elizabeth Warren has a record of putting consumers first and we're pleased she is raising her voice to stand up to the casino mess," John Ribeiro, Repeal the Casino Deal's campaign chairman, said in a statement Tuesday.

In comments to reporters after the Greater Boston Labor Council's Labor Day breakfast, Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor, said the issue is one of economics.

"It's a tough call to make," she said, according to reports from the State House News Service and the Boston Herald. "People need jobs, but gambling can also be a real problem economically for a lot of people."

As a Senate candidate in 2012, Warren opposed the decision to expand the state's gambling law to allow for as many as three resort casinos and one slot parlor.

Residents will vote in November whether to repeal the 2011 law, potentially ending the state's casino licensing process before the first project can even open.

So far, gambling regulators have awarded a slot parlor license to Penn National Gaming, which is building a $225 million expansion at the harness racing track in Plainville. It also has awarded a resort casino license to MGM Resorts International for a proposed $800 million casino in downtown Springfield, pending the outcome of the November vote.

And regulators are poised to name the winner of the Boston-area casino license next week. Mohegan Sun and Wynn Resorts are vying for that license, with competing projects in the cities of Revere and Everett, respectively.

According to Repeal the Casino Deal, a number of candidates for statewide office have stated their support for repealing the casino law, including three gubernatorial candidates: Democrat Don Berwick, Republican Mark Fisher and independent Jeff McCormick.

Among the state's congressional delegation, positions are less clear.

Rep. Niki Tsongas said through a spokesman that she supports the repeal effort and plans to vote yes on the ballot question. But Rep. Joseph Kennedy III said through a spokeswoman he would vote no on the repeal question.

"His constituents in Taunton and Plainville have voiced overwhelming support for proposed sites in their communities," spokeswoman Emily Kaufman said. "He continues to support those efforts."

Rep. William Keating said through his spokeswoman he also would vote no.

Rep. Michael Capuano, through a spokeswoman, did not say how he would vote on the question but said he "supports this effort to give voters a voice."

Other members of the delegation, including Sen. Ed Markey, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

According to a poll released Tuesday, 59 percent of registered Massachusetts voters oppose repealing the casino law, while 36 percent support repeal. Five percent were undecided.

The telephone poll of 1,624 registered voters was conducted from Aug. 25-31 by the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and WHDH-TV, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Associated Press reporter Steve LeBlanc in Boston contributed to this report.

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