Ways and Means Committee recommends N.H. House kill 2 casino bills
Two casino bills are headed to the House floor after the Ways and Means Committee voted yesterday to recommend lawmakers kill both pieces of legislation.
The pair of 12-6 votes came just a day after the Senate Ways and Means Committee voted, 4-1, to endorse an unrelated casino bill, one that has the backing of a bipartisan group of legislators and Gov. Maggie Hassan.
That bill, which would allow a single casino in the state, will go to the Senate floor next week for a vote. If it passes the Republican-led Senate, it will then go to the Democratic-led House.
“Both of these bills have major flaws compared to the one that is coming up across” from the Senate, said Rep. Susan Almy, a Lebanon Democrat and chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “We will be having quite a debate, I’m sure, in this committee when that one does get across.”
One bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Edmond Gionet of Lincoln, would allow two casinos, one along the Massachusetts border and a second in the White Mountains. The second bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester, would establish six state-operated casinos.
The committee had voted Tuesday to retain both bills. But then both pieces of legislation were debated again at a hastily called, 18-minute committee meeting during the lunchtime break of yesterday’s House session.
On a pair of 12-6 votes, the committee recommended the full House kill both bills.
Several members of the panel expressed concern yesterday about the process.
“I really don’t know what we’re doing here,” said Rep. Mary Griffin, a Windham Republican.
Hassan, a Democrat, is making a push to expand gambling in the state this year. Her proposed two-year state budget relies on $80 million in revenue from a casino license.
But the House in the past has rejected proposals for expanded gambling, and it’s not clear what the prospects are this year for a casino bill.
The two-casino and six-casino bills are distinct from the Senate’s one-casino bill. Still, votes on those bills could be an early barometer of support in the House for some sort of casino proposal.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or email@example.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)