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Gambling in the Granite State

Casino bill has the governor but not everyone

  • Governor Maggie Hassan voices her support for legalizing gambling in New Hampshire to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Governor Maggie Hassan voices her support for legalizing gambling in New Hampshire to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Senator Lou D'Allesandro speaks in support of Senate Bill 215, that would legalize gambling in New Hampshire, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  D'Allesandro has long advocated for expanding gambling in the state.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Senator Lou D'Allesandro speaks in support of Senate Bill 215, that would legalize gambling in New Hampshire, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. D'Allesandro has long advocated for expanding gambling in the state.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Governor Maggie Hassan voices her support for Senate Bill 215, legalizing gambling in New Hampshire, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Governor Maggie Hassan voices her support for Senate Bill 215, legalizing gambling in New Hampshire, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Governor Maggie Hassan voices her support for legalizing gambling in New Hampshire to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Governor Maggie Hassan voices her support for legalizing gambling in New Hampshire to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Governor Maggie Hassan voices her support for legalizing gambling in New Hampshire to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Senator Lou D'Allesandro speaks in support of Senate Bill 215, that would legalize gambling in New Hampshire, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  D'Allesandro has long advocated for expanding gambling in the state.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Governor Maggie Hassan voices her support for Senate Bill 215, legalizing gambling in New Hampshire, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Governor Maggie Hassan voices her support for legalizing gambling in New Hampshire to the Senate Ways and Means Committee; Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.  <br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

The latest bill that would legalize a casino in the state may finally have the governor’s support, but it remains unpopular with those opposed to any casinos and those who object to having just one.

Nearly 20 people testified before the Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday on a casino bill that would permit a single casino anywhere in the state in exchange for an $80 million license fee and a 30 percent tax on net proceeds.

Supporters predict a lone casino would generate
$130 million taxes a year, with most of it going toward higher education and road improvements. One percent of the net proceeds, or about $5 million, would be used to treat gambling addictions.

The committee will vote on the bill March 5, but it’s certain to pass because three of the five committee members are sponsoring it: Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, a Manchester Democrat, and two Republicans, Sen. Chuck Morse of Salem and Sen. Jim Rausch of Derry.

They’ve laid out a fast pace in hopes of getting a casino open in New Hampshire before Massachusetts, which is in the process of awarding licenses for three sites. The bill would take effect 60 days after it was signed by the governor.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican, has predicted the bill will pass the full Senate. The real test will come in the House, which has historically rejected expanded gambling.

D’Allesandro, a casino proponent for years, introduced the bill yesterday with a light joke: “I know (this discussion) won’t be strange . . . because we’ve been through this for the last 14 years.”

The proposed tax rate is lower in this bill than the 37 percent contained in prior bills, but sponsors say the regulation is tighter. In addition, charities that raise money now through gambling could continue to do so. And any shortfall from their 2012 earnings would be made up by the casino, Rausch said.

About half of those who took a position yesterday supported the bill, including Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has included the $80 million license fee in her proposed budget. She said a casino will create 2,000 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent jobs, and it would bring regulation to the charity gaming that already exists.

“We cannot pretend that gambling isn’t happening in our communities,” Hassan said. “It is already here.”

Supporters yesterday also included those who would benefit from a casino:

∎ Sen. Jeff Woodburn, a Dalton Democrat who agreed to support the bill in exchange for the North Country getting some of the tax revenue for economic development.

∎ Three officials from Salem, where Millenium Gaming hopes to build a $450 million casino if it wins the bid for the license. Under the bill, the host community would get 3 percent of the casino’s net proceeds.

∎ The New Hampshire Troopers Association, which backs the bill because it would add an additional 11 troopers to police the site, said president Seth Cooper.

Several opponents, including Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice and the state’s police chief’s association, said the crime that would follow a casino would outweigh any benefits. And Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, a Portsmouth Democrat, said she doubts the state would get the revenue it expects.

She noted that casino revenue has fallen off in other states, enough that one nearby casino is in bankruptcy. And studies have shown that it takes a casino five years of slow growth to reach its earning potential.

“It’s a false panacea,” she said.

Morse asked Clark if she’d pay for universities and other priorities by raising taxes and fees. “Yes,” she said. “But that is always how we’ve raised revenue for this state.”

Two of Millennium’s competitors, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and the Greenmeadow Golf Club in Hudson, expressed concern yesterday that the bill’s quick timeline gives an advantage to Millenium, which has said it’s ready to apply for the license.

Lobbyist Ed Dupont, who represents the speedway, said his client would be interested in opening a casino and already draws over 400,000 people to the state annually. He urged the committee to consider expanding the number of licensed casinos, which he said would increase state revenue.

“Given the competition coming our way from Massachusetts and Maine, New Hampshire needs a robust multiple location gaming strategy,” Dupont said. “And (this bill) falls way short of this goal.”

Rausch noted that the bill creates a commission that could study whether the state could support additional casinos in future years.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323,
atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

Legacy Comments3

Budgets should be set on the present years posted revenue. After all the "growth" and "gambling income" happens, then the state can use those numbers for next budget...... It's like going out and buying a house and a car because you plan on a raise next year - oh wait, that's what got so many people in trouble in the first place.

common sense is simply not a virtue that the democrat budget process has ever possessed .....they did manage to take $13.5 million of the RGGI funds that had earmarks for the low income.......go figure....not a peep from the leftist compliant CM

The mere fact that Gov. Hassan came down from the corner office and testified on this bill is a sign that the Lynch Era is over. Gov. Lynch rarely if ever testified on any bill, let alone on something as controversial as this gambling bill.

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