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N.H. gambling commission reviewing legislation

A commission charged with recommending regulations for future casinos in New Hampshire discussed yesterday whether a bigger Lottery Commission would be the best agency to regulate a casino if one is approved.

The commission is required to submit draft legislation to lawmakers by mid-December and spent about two hours reviewing three proposed casino bills. Gov. Maggie Hassan lobbied heavily for a casino and hopes the commission will address concerns about the state’s ability to regulate one that came up last spring when the House killed a casino bill the Senate had passed.

Casino supporters are concerned New Hampshire will lose revenue to Massachusetts, which is in the process of licensing three casinos and one video slots parlor.

State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, whose casino bill died in the House, said his bill proposed giving the Lottery Commission oversight because he was looking for an existing state agency with gambling experience.

State Rep. Lynne Ober, a Hudson Republican who supported an amended version of D’Allesandro’s bill, said the Lottery Commission would need more staff to handle the additional duties if the commission recommends that it assume the regulatory role.

“Competent hands are needed without a doubt,” said Ober.

The proposed amendment was prepared by Ober and other House members during a month-long study last spring of D’Allesandro’s bill. The amendment’s sponsors had argued that D’Allesandro’s bill could be strengthened and deserved consideration by the full House, but the special committee conducting the study never voted on the amendment nor did the House before it killed D’Allesandro’s bill.

State Rep. David Huot, a Laconia Democrat who also worked on the amendment, said the amendment’s sponsors differed over whether the Lottery Commission should have primary oversight of a casino or another agency should be created or tasked with the job.

The commission will meet privately Sept. 10 to discuss hiring a consultant to help write the regulations. It also scheduled a public hearing on the issue Sept. 12.

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