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Gambling in the Granite State

N.H. House kills Senate’s casino bill, 199-164

  • Gov. Maggie Hassan talks to reporters after the House of Representatives rejected a bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164;  Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Hassan's budget plans depended on the revenues generated by a casino. <br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Gov. Maggie Hassan talks to reporters after the House of Representatives rejected a bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164; Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Hassan's budget plans depended on the revenues generated by a casino.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Red lights record "No" votes to reconsider a vote against legalizing  a casino as the House of Representatives rejects a bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164;  Wednesday, May 22, 2013.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Red lights record "No" votes to reconsider a vote against legalizing a casino as the House of Representatives rejects a bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164; Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Jim Rubens, of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, hands out fliers as members of The House of Representatives begin their session. The House rejected a bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164;  Wednesday, May 22, 2013.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Jim Rubens, of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, hands out fliers as members of The House of Representatives begin their session. The House rejected a bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164; Wednesday, May 22, 2013.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Rep. Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester listens to a question from Rep. Sid Lovett of Holderness during a debate over Senate Bill 152;  Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The House of Representatives rejected the bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Rep. Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester listens to a question from Rep. Sid Lovett of Holderness during a debate over Senate Bill 152; Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The House of Representatives rejected the bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Lobbyist Andy Crews (center) talks with Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford as he passes out pens and fliers in support of Senate Bill 126, an "auto dealer bill of rights";  Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The House passed the bill easily.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Lobbyist Andy Crews (center) talks with Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford as he passes out pens and fliers in support of Senate Bill 126, an "auto dealer bill of rights"; Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The House passed the bill easily.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Gov. Maggie Hassan talks to reporters after the House of Representatives rejected a bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164;  Wednesday, May 22, 2013. Hassan's budget plans depended on the revenues generated by a casino. <br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Red lights record "No" votes to reconsider a vote against legalizing  a casino as the House of Representatives rejects a bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164;  Wednesday, May 22, 2013.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Jim Rubens, of the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, hands out fliers as members of The House of Representatives begin their session. The House rejected a bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164;  Wednesday, May 22, 2013.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Rep. Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester listens to a question from Rep. Sid Lovett of Holderness during a debate over Senate Bill 152;  Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The House of Representatives rejected the bill that would legalize a casino by a vote of 199-164.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Lobbyist Andy Crews (center) talks with Rep. Laurie Sanborn of Bedford as he passes out pens and fliers in support of Senate Bill 126, an "auto dealer bill of rights";  Wednesday, May 22, 2013. The House passed the bill easily.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

The House ended the casino debate in two hours yesterday, killing the Senate’s bill, 199-164, without considering more than a dozen amendments.

The bill’s opponents cited concerns about creating a monopoly by legalizing just one casino and approving a casino before the state has adopted rules and regulations.

Even Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican who supports expanded gambling, urged his colleagues to defeat the bill.

“This is a tremendous bill, a real bargain and one that represents a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Vaillancourt said. “Unfortunately, this is a tremendous bill not for the people of New Hampshire but for one out-of-state gambling interest.”

The reaction came fast after the 2½-hour House debate.

Senate President Peter Bragdon said no one should expect the casino bill to return during final budget negotiations between the two chambers in the coming weeks.

“It just doesn’t seem like this is going to go much further this year,” said Bragdon, a Milford Republican.

Neither the House nor the Senate included any casino revenue in their proposed budgets, but Gov. Maggie Hassan campaigned on legalizing a casino to boost support for hospitals, higher education and the mentally ill and disabled.

It was unclear last night how her priorities will fare in the final budget; the Senate has already indicated it is eyeing cuts to her budget requests in some of those areas.

After the vote, Hassan said she knew it was going to be difficult to get a casino bill through a House that has long rejected every effort to expand gambling.

“As you know, the Senate had strong support for gambling, and I am disappointed that the House has decided to reject a funding mechanism that an overwhelming majority of people in this state support,” Hassan said.

An April poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center indicated 63 percent of residents support expanded gambling.

Hassan, who lobbied Democratic House members personally, said she will work with both chambers and both parties to protect her budget priorities. She offered no specifics last night.

‘Casino revenue scheme’

The bill’s three Senate sponsors offered harsher words for the House in a joint statement yesterday evening.

“It’s an absolute shame that this bi-partisan, carefully crafted piece of legislation has been rejected by the House,” said Sen. Chuck Morse, a Salem Republican; Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, a Manchester Democrat; and Sen. Jim Rausch, a Derry Republican.

The bill “would have created 1,500 new jobs, funded repairs for our roads and bridges and been a source of economic development in the North Country. This bill was our best chance in years to reap all of those benefits and the House closed the door.”

They challenged the 199 House members who voted against the bill “to tell us exactly how he or she intends to find the new, non-tax revenues we need.”

The Senate has already said it will not adopt the House’s proposed increase in the cigarette or gas taxes.

State Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn didn’t tarry in casting the House’s vote as a political failure for Hassan.

“The governor’s illegal casino revenue scheme was so irresponsible that even the Democrat controlled House
. . . would not support it despite months of intense lobbying from her incompetent administration,” Horn said in a statement.

But the decision to kill the bill belonged to both parties, with 107 Republicans and 92 Democrats rejecting a casino.

And the debate yesterday focused not only on the concept of casino gambling but equally on what opponents saw as significant flaws in the Senate’s bill.

Rep. Marjorie Smith, a Durham Democrat, reminded House members that a gambling study commission created by former governor John Lynch concluded the state needed to write regulations for a casino before licensing one.

Four years ago, the Legislature moved in that direction, allocating $250,000 to hire experts to help the state create those regulations. The effort died when the Republican-led Executive Council rejected an initial $40,000 to begin the process.

“Three years later, that money is still sitting there,” Smith said. “We do not have a regulatory or enforcement system in place.” The casino bill before lawmakers yesterday would have left casino regulation to the state’s Lottery Commission, which is made up of three part-time appointees. That’s inadequate, Smith said.

“What we . . . have is a bill that has provisions for an agency that is superb at marketing to take on this complicated responsibility,” she said. “But they don’t know regulation and they don’t know enforcement.”

The $250,000 is available to the House until June 30. Last night, House Speaker Terie Norelli, a Portsmouth Democrat, said she’d “absolutely support” an effort to extend the deadline and any effort to pursue further efforts to study gambling regulations.

“There are some (House members) who are open to gambling but for whom the regulatory aspect is a great deal of concern,” Norelli said.

Among arguments made by casino supporters yesterday was one of lost revenue if New Hampshire rejects expanded gambling as Massachusetts is poised to open three casinos. Advocates warned that New Hampshire residents will go to the Bay State to gamble, taking potential tax revenue with them.

Rep. David Campbell, a Nashua Democrat, said letting Massachusetts have the casino market is like building a “giant funnel” on the border that will pump billions of dollars to the Bay State.

The amendments

Hassan said she was disappointed not only by the House’s vote but also by it’s decision to decide the casino issue without first considering the nearly 15 amendments to the bill.

One of the amendments rewrote large portions of the bill, giving the attorney general more say in casino oversight. Others tinkered with the proposed tax on slot machine revenue and at least one sought to expand the number of casino licenses awarded by the state.

To consider those amendments, the House would have had to overturn a joint House committee’s recommendation to kill the bill.

Several freshmen House Democrats, who have not debated casino gambling before, told the Monitor earlier this week that they wanted to hear the amendments before deciding how to vote. They didn’t get the chance because the House voted to accept the committee’s recommendation to kill the bill.

Although some House members have said as many as five casino developers had expressed interest in a New Hampshire casino license, only one company, Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas, was public about its interest.

The company has long held an option to buy Rockingham Park in Salem and said recently it intended to invest $600 million in a casino, restaurant and hotel on the site. The company also said it would return live horse racing to the park.

Rich Killion, Millennium spokesman, joined Hassan in expressing disappointment after the vote.

“We are heartened by the strong leadership by the governor and Senate and House bill sponsors on this issue,” Killion said. “Regardless of today’s outcome, we remain committed to the people of Salem and Rockingham Park.”

He did not elaborate.

(‘Monitor’ reporter Ben Leubsdorf contributed to this report. Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323,
atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of House members that challenged the bill. It was 199.

Related

How Merrimack Co. representatives voted on N.H. casino bill

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The New Hampshire House yesterday voted, 199-164, to kill a bill allowing a single casino in New Hampshire. The bill had passed the Senate on March 14 on a 16-8 vote. Here’s how Merrimack County’s representatives voted on the motion to kill Senate Bill 152. Twenty-eight voted “yes” to kill the bill, and 15 voted “no” to oppose the motion … 1

Whacha gunna do now that the bill didn't go thru... whacha gunna do? I'll tell ya, just uncross those fingers and vote for an income tax. That was the plan all along, she knew gambling would never pass.

If Hassan really wanted casinos she should have been more liberalized about Marijuana. Her puritanical views about pot are enough to reject her entire agenda for the duration. The dems have to surrender all their earmarks and hack apart their line-items because they lost the casino debate. If they had only had their liberal attitudes towards pot, they coulda had a casino. But as usual for power-freaks, they want to limit your freedom. If you don't have the freedom to smoke a joint, do you really have freedom at all?

‘Casino revenue scheme’.....brought to you by the democrat Governor Hassan

I think we should have a ballot question, income tax, sales tax, or casinos. Make it binding. But they won't do it because they fear the truth about a sales tax.

This ought to make Mass. much happier; they'll be getting more NH money. NH House, go stick your head back into the ground. Well, it's off to Oxford, Maine. Wish me luck.

Well they certainly won't be getting any of my hard earned cash. I happen to be quite pleased with the decision. In my opinion, turning NH into "Sin City" Las Vegas is the last thing we need to do.

rje49, lucky you leaving and good luck. Wish I could!!

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