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Capital Beat

Coming Sunday: the great lottery debate of 1963

With the House set to vote Wednesday on the casino bill, this Sunday’s Capital Beat column will look at another debate over expanded gambling in New Hampshire: the 1963 law that established the first modern state lottery in the United States.

In many ways, the parallels between the debate 50 years ago over what was called the “sweepstakes” and the fight this year over casino gambling are uncanny.

Don’t believe me? Check out the quotes below, from two players in the 1963 legislative battle.

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“In my opinion, this is a sorry day in the history of the Granite State. We are about to set an awful example for our younger citizens. I think we could set no worse example for another generation. We are about to tell our younger people that the only way to help solve their problems is to increase gambling in the state of New Hampshire. ... The Good Book says that, as we sow, so shall we reap. If more and more gambling is to be the official state policy, then we shall reap increased crime and corruption and increase social unrest in New Hampshire. There are those who say some people who are going to gamble anyway, and, therefore, we might as well have the sweepstakes. If you carry that thought to its logical conclusion, you could say that because some citizens live loosely, we might as well legalize all vices.”

-Sen. Paul Karkavelas, a Dover Republican, during the Senate’s debate on April 16, 1963.

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“I have respect for those who have an honest, sincere concern about the morality of this action although I do not agree with them. As for those who raise the fear of undesirable elements invading our state, I firmly believe this fear is without foundation. I am convinced that we can conduct an honest and respectable operation that will have the tendency to discourage those who seek illegal gain in this field. … Our local communities are faced with constantly increasing demands for school facilities at a time when our people are already carrying a cross of taxation unequalled in American history. They cry out for relief — and if they demonstrate an obvious desire to try this voluntary method of raising new revenues, then I conceive it our duty to try to execute their wishes.”

-Democratic Gov. John W. King, speaking to a joint session of the Legislature minutes after signing the sweepstakes bill into law on April 30, 1963.

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For the full story, pick up a copy of the Sunday Monitor.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Legacy Comments1

And please note--the lottery did not solve NH's revenue problem in the long term, did it. It was not the solution the supporters thought it would be.

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