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Editorial: State must professionalize its regulators

Maybe it’s a small matter. But coming, as it does, while the House is preparing to vote on legalizing casino gambling, and in the middle of yet another battle involving the state liquor commission, the gaming commission’s order that the Lakes Region Casino shut down its slot machines raises a bigger question:

Is New Hampshire, a state that relies heavily on amateur regulators, up to the task of controlling big-money gambling?

We think not, at least not yet, which is one more reason why lawmakers should say no to Gov. Maggie Hassan’s casino plan.

The Belmont casino has just 96 slot machines that are, according to its general manager, there more for atmosphere than profit. Players, by law, can earn only 2.5 cents per point for every win, and Lakes Region paid out just a penny. The casino shares the money raised with charities. The problem came when the casino decided to pay slots winners who accumulated enough points with a Visa gift card instead of points redeemable for merchandise. The latter gives the whole enterprise the feel of an arcade whose winners trade in their points for stuffed animals and trinkets; the former, well, it’s just too much like real money.

The casino immediately agreed to switch to a merchandise payout, but the timing of the Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission’s decision surprised Rick Newman, the casino’s general manager. He says he had told the commissioners, whose annual pay barely breaks five figures, that he was making the switch to Visa cards and got no complaints.

Call it what you will – an error, an oversight, a misunderstanding – but no harm appears to have been done. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. In 2005, the previous owners of the Belmont establishment were indicted on charges of laundering drug money, and the federal government seized the proceeds of the sale of the casino. That money was eventually returned, but several people either pleaded guilty or were convicted of money laundering and illegal gambling.

The bill to license a single, large casino, which the Senate passed, calls for it to be regulated by the lottery commission rather than the charitable gaming commission. But when it comes to regulating a giant enterprise with the buying power to influence legislation, lottery commissioners, too, are, amateurs – more public servant than hard-nosed regulator. One comes from financial management, another is a successful auto dealer, and the third is a dairy farmer and veteran legislator with budgeting experience. Regulatory expertise can be hired, but it’s also required to assess expert advice.

In 2010, the Gaming Study Commission appointed by then-Gov. John Lynch emphatically recommended that the state develop and adopt tough and comprehensive regulations before licensing a casino. That didn’t happen, so once again, the House must decide whether to buck that advice and do two things at once: approve regulations and award a license. The state’s history of regulating small gaming operations suggests that to do so would be a mistake lawmakers would come to regret.

Before approving any significant expansion of gambling, the Legislature should adopt regulations with a proven track record, professionalize the state’s ability to regulate the industry and start by combining the lottery and racing commissions.

Legacy Comments11

Question to the readers. Is it true that the conservative right is being led astray by secret corporate interests who want to eliminate Goverment and regulation so that they can take control of the country and make everyone not a millionaire a slave working and living in poverty?

Don't forget to add on say what, that conservatives also want dirty air, poor schools, and a return to slavery. keep drinking the Kool Aid.

Like any good conspiracy theory when presented with facts that disprove it the answer is. "That's what they want you to think".

What I find amusing is how Republicans say how safe we were AFTER 09/11. How come we count that when the facts came out that Bush and Clinton dropped the ball. See the difference bewteen you and I is that I can admit when a Democratic makes a mistake. If you want to count how many chances Bush had a chance to get Bin Laden more then three. In 5 or 6 years you party will be no more because proven fact when the numbers come out to vote its not for your party.

This is not about Bush anymore folks. Guess it is about time you folks start realizing that President Obama is in charge. And his incompetence is starting to add up. I never see the left talking up this President's screw ups. They think he is a Rock Star. They do believe he should be more liberal, spend more, and not bother with silly things like a budget. They also believe that he should champion every social issue and change the constitution. Voters are unfortunately uninformed. They vote on emotion, and if they are on gov programs, they vote for more wealth distribution. Simple really, tell the folks all the pluses of any legislation, leave out the cost, and the impact it will have, and folks buy the good deal. Like that car you buy at the used car lot that was only driven by the little old lady to church every Sunday.

Correct again RabbitNH. Democrats will still be blaming Bush in 2050. I was listening to the radio on this weeks trip as I drove a very long way. A writer for one of the think tanks came on and hit the nail on the head. He said that Republicans have the numbers and the statistics correct but people glaze over when they start to present them as, in his words: "voters no longer vote with their heads, they vote with their emotion". He was a Democrat but not a real liberal one and he was supporting the fact that we need two parties. A colleague of mine came over to my desk this week when I was in the office and was talking about Obamacare and how much it was going to cost all of us. He voted for Obama but said, "Republicans have better ideas than Democrats but unfortunately they get all bogged down on the social issues". I think that is correct as well. Obama is starting out on a bad foot on this second term, he should be careful as his political capital is being used up fast.

I agree, the Reps did get bogged down in the social issues. The Left baited them, and as a result, the Reps just do not get the message out. It makes perfect sense that Libs who are dependent on the govt, or think of themselves as socially correct would vote for a Dem always. Kinda silly to expect folks who cannot manage their own lives to understand how the economy, taxes etc work. All about emotion, electing a man of color, the media love him, and because they do, they will never hold him responsible. And the Reps for quite a long time have not had a viable candidate.

I love it when Libs make blanket statements supporting their agenda and leave out the facts. Under Bush's watch we did stay safe after 9/11, even though the left thwarted every attempt to keep us safe, from airport security to wire tapping. And what was Clinton's role in the attack? Did he have chances to get Bin Laden and passed on it 3 times? The Dems that were against the prescription bill were not worried about the cost, on the contrary, they were worried the bill was too stingy. Yet those same Dems voted for the ACA that will cost us how much? As far as WMD's, Dems saw the evidence and agreed.

Question to the readers: Which political group thinks George Bush was a good president? The guy that destroyed the economy, could not protect its own people during 9/11 and got involved in a useless war in Iraq to stop WMD's(Oh by the way have they found them yet?) and prescription bill plan that was never paid for. Oh by the way which party still has the presidential office. Where have you been Sail have not heard from you after the president was re elected. Face it your party is a dying breed in this country. Old, white and miserable. Say Good-bye.

you can thank the low information voter for electing the most incompetent, inexperienced leftistl ever

Question to the readers: which political group supports bigger more expensive , less responsive. less efficient government?

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