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Gambling in the Granite State

Proposed Salem casino gets bigger: hotel, spa added

  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed racetrack clubhouse at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

    Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed racetrack clubhouse at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

  • Site plan of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

    Site plan of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

    Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

    Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino (left) and hotel at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

    Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino (left) and hotel at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

  • Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino.
    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino.
    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino.
    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Salem residents inside the Belmont room at Rockingham Park listen as Millenium Gaming unveils its latest plans for the proposed casino on May 8, 2013. What was a $450 million casino is now a $600 million casino. Earlier in the day, the company made the same presentation to legislators in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Salem residents inside the Belmont room at Rockingham Park listen as Millenium Gaming unveils its latest plans for the proposed casino on May 8, 2013. What was a $450 million casino is now a $600 million casino. Earlier in the day, the company made the same presentation to legislators in Concord.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino.
    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed racetrack clubhouse at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

    Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed racetrack clubhouse at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed racetrack clubhouse at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.
  • Site plan of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.
  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.
  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.
  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed casino (left) and hotel at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.
  • Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Salem residents inside the Belmont room at Rockingham Park listen as Millenium Gaming unveils its latest plans for the proposed casino on May 8, 2013. What was a $450 million casino is now a $600 million casino. Earlier in the day, the company made the same presentation to legislators in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Millenium Gaming unveils latest plans for casino to Salem residents at Rockingham Park on May 8, 2013. It is now a $600 million casino. <br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Rendering of Millennium Gaming's proposed racetrack clubhouse at Rockingham Park in Salem, presented on Wednesday, May 08, 2013.

Millennium Gaming unveiled its latest plans for a casino in Salem last night to an adoring audience of nearly 300 people. The once $450 million project is now a $600 million plan with not only a casino and racetrack, but a hotel, spa, conference center and entertainment venue as well.

What it won’t have, Millennium officials said, is glitz. Think elegant mansion, not blinking lights, said architect David Climans of Climans Green Liang, who designed the proposed property.

Susan Levine of Salem was one of many who liked what she heard.

“It’s a no-brainer,” she said after the presentation at Rockingham Park. “Forty years ago, we had a world-class racing track here. We are so lucky to have these people who want to spend this kind of money in Salem. . . . You’d have to be crazy not to vote for it.”

And Levine doesn’t even gamble, she said.

Millennium has enjoyed strong support from Salem since it first showed interest in redeveloping Rockingham Park eight years ago. The challenge has been at the State House, where the House has never supported expanded gambling.

The question is before House members again this month, and people on both sides are predicting a close vote on the latest casino bill, which breezed through the Senate, 16-8, and has the support of Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Today, a joint House committee that has spent nearly a month studying the bill will share its impressions of the bill’s strengths and weaknesses. Next week, the committee will vote on the bill, and from there it will go to the House floor.

Rep. Bob Elliott, a Salem Republican who supports the bill and serves on the joint committee, told the crowd last night that 20 of the committee’s members support the bill, 20 oppose it and five are either undecided or not saying.

“We will win this (in the House) by six, seven or eight votes,” Elliott predicted. He reminded the crowd that four of Salem’s nine House members oppose the bill and urged voters to contact them.

Larry Levine, who attended the presentation with his wife, Susan, said he did write to them but never heard back.

Bill Wortman, co-owner of Millennium Gaming, walked the crowd through his latest plans for Rockingham Park:

∎ He has added a 300-room hotel to the casino property.

∎ He vowed to bring back live thoroughbred racing on a new racetrack. “That’s always been part of the discussion,” he said. “I think the first day we came here and talked, that was the first thing we talked about. That’s a commitment we made and a commitment we intend to keep.”

∎ Millennium will have a spa and conference center adjacent to the casino and hotel.

∎ There will be entertainment space that seats between 1,000 and 1,500 people. Wortman said that will complement, not compete with local entertainment venues. Officials at many of those other entertainment locations have told lawmakers, however, they fear the casino will hurt their operations.

∎ Wortman envisions creating 2,000 construction jobs and 1,300 full-time jobs at the casino, once it opens.

∎ Millennium would ensure charity gaming continued during the planned 18-month construction phase, Wortman said.

Wortman said he and his partner added to their plan to compete with resort-type casinos that will open in Massachusetts in the next two years. The proposal will cost Millennium at least $600 million, he said; that figure includes the proposed $80 million casino license fee.

“We have developed a New Hampshire version . . . that would be totally competitive in the marketplace,” Wortman said.

One woman in the audience wanted assurances that the casino, which will have its own restaurant, would not put Salem restaurants out of business.

Wortman said Millennium will bring its long-standing partnership program to Salem that allows players to use their casino points for purchases at local restaurants or other businesses. The casino would reimburse the business for the expense, he said.

One man told Wortman his plans were “fabulous.” He said, “I don’t know why any resident of New Hampshire wouldn’t be proud . . . to know that this is the first thing you are going to see when you come across the state line.”

Earlier yesterday, Millennium brought two officials from Washington County, Penn., where its Meadows Casino and Racetrack is located, to tell lawmakers about the benefits they’ve seen since the Meadows opened.

Larry Maggi, a county commissioner and former state tooper, said the casino has not had an effect on the local crime rate and fears about prostitution have not been realized. “It’s not existent,” he said. Instead, the casino has pumped nearly $2.7 million into the local township, a figure that represents half the township’s annual budget.

William McGowen, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority of Washington County, said the casino has allowed his organization to invest $53 million in local projects over the last six years. That money has gone toward business parks, nonprofits and improving local sewer and water connections, among other things, he said.

This story has been updated to correct the name of David Climan’s firm.

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

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