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My Turn: Casino would hurt the Cap Center – and other nonprofits across the state

In Rep. Katherine Rogers’s recent pro-casino column (“Look at the facts: Casino makes sense,” Monitor Forum, Feb. 12), she argued that House Bill 1633 answers the concerns about the effect of a casino on nonprofit and municipal entertainment venues. As executive director of the Capitol Center for the Arts, I offer a different point of view.

The Capitol Center for the Arts appreciates that HB 1633 acknowledges that a New Hampshire casino will hurt nonprofit live entertainment venues in New Hampshire. However, although HB 1633 requires casino license applicants to develop mitigation agreements to address issues such as exclusivity, scheduling and cross-marketing, the bill does not provide meaningful protection for nonprofit performing arts centers in the state for the following reasons:

1. Casinos, with their deep pockets, can and do outbid nonprofit performing arts centers for headliner talent, which then serves as a “loss leader” to pull people into the casino, where the ultimate goal is to get people to gamble. None of the provisions in the bill addresses the competitive advantage casinos have in booking talent – nor can they, as artists and their agents have the ultimate power to choose where they perform. Everyone in the booking business knows artists will choose the venue with the larger fee every time. The beautiful historic nonprofit theaters we all enjoy in New Hampshire will be shut out of any possible negotiations for headlining acts.

2. The bill is asking small nonprofits with limited staff (many of whom are part time or volunteers) and limited financial resources to retain legal counsel and negotiate any mitigation agreements with large, well-financed businesses in the gaming industry. Unable to compete with the professional casino industry, New Hampshire’s nonprofit arts presenters cannot enter into any negotiations on equal footing.

3. The amendment under consideration to limit the size of an entertainment venue for a casino to 1,500 seats is a concession to the Verizon Center but takes dead aim at the Capitol Center for the Arts. As a 1,300-seat venue, we will be asked to compete for exactly the same tier of headliner talent: those artists who will sell 800 to 2,000 tickets.

With this kind of competitive advantage casinos are going to hurt community life across the state. Performing arts centers such as the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, the Colonial in Keene, the Music Hall in Portsmouth and the Lebanon Opera House in Lebanon serve as anchors of community life and as gathering places and resources for all. That means that any profit that the Capitol Center makes from presenting well-known artists such as Willie Nelson or Bill Cosby helps to offset the presentation of theater, dance, and opera as well as performances for school groups, local dance recitals, and fundraising performances for social service agencies such as Child and Family Services and CATCH Neighborhood Housing. If venues such as the Capitol Center cannot book the headliner acts to finance these kinds of other important (but less profitable) artists, events and activities, then no other venue will (certainly not casinos).

These community-enriching performances and events will simply be lost.

The economic benefit to our downtowns that local performing arts centers bring cannot be over-emphasized. Here in Concord, our restaurants are filled when the Capitol Center has a show and hotels and Main Street merchants are busy when dance competitions and arts festivals are scheduled. The addition of casinos to New Hampshire will destabilize the cultural life in many communities, and those negative effects outweigh any proposed benefits.

I know there is pressure to support HB 1633 as proponents cite the much-needed revenue stream it will provide for New Hampshire. However, I hope legislators take the time to look at what has happened in Delaware. Though revenue started off strong, it has dropped to the point that in June 2013 Delaware’s General Assembly approved an $8 million bailout to pay for licensing fees on slot machines. In other words, the state bailed out the casinos. Is that what we want for our own state?

Casinos continue to be a bad bet for New Hampshire.

(Nicolette B. Clarke is executive director of the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.)

Legacy Comments18

The Casino Idea would have been great if it happened years ago like Foxwoods did. Foxwoods is in very bad financial trouble. They had a monopoly on casinos for many years. Then casinos started popping up in other states. Mohegan Sun also attracted the younger crowds with offering better entertainment geared to that age group. Foxwoods was attracting the older crowd. On top of that they have just brought in someone to manage it because the income from the casino was being spent non stop by the tribe that owns it. Last time I was at MGM Grand the rooms were in bad shape and they cut out 3/4th of their black jack tables. Replaced them with Spanish Black Jack that improves the odds for the casino, and they did lower the bar for wins also on the slots. I use to hear sirens going off when someone won, this time I did not, and my experience with the slots was horrible. Usually the slots nickel dime you with a win every now and then, but not this time. Basically put the money in and it went immediately. So I believe they tinkered with the slot machines. You have to hit it when the timing is right as far as success goes. You waited too long NH. Lost the window where a Casino would have been a great idea.

Thank you Rabbit for citing another great example of why NOT to have a casino, like the example Nicolette uses. Apparently, you're able to look at the ACTUAL ISSUES and make a determination based on FACTS instead of getting distracted by the shiny object that is your own twisted personal perception of the terms "culture" "arts" and "liberal."

Beyoind Casinos, there is a need for a venue and independent movie theater that is not bent on making an artsy fartsy social statement. There are many good independent films which the RRT has not shown or will not show because their social statement is different than the people running the RRT. Same with the Capital Center, there is a definite social direction that goes as well. No, we don't need druggies going in to hear heavy metal but there are many better choices than what CCA runs. Oh, Dan, I used to be an Artist Manager, Personal Manager and licensed booking agent in Massachusetts in the 1980's and worked in the entertainment industry. So yes, not being "high minded" just letting you know that I do know much about the business.

Let me guess . . . when you mention "good independent films" that are not trying to make an "artsy fartsy social statement" . . . you wouldn't perhaps mean films like "2016: Obama's America" would you??????

Several things are apparent from a number of these comments most obvious is that some have no clue. First misconception is glaringly obvious - The CCA and Red River attract only liberals, patrons of the arts are not restricted by political designation. Secondly, just because it's not monster trucks and wrestling does not make it bad. People have different tastes and many "arts" shows are about socializing as much as the event itself. Thirdly, the notion that the forces behind casino gambling are the liberals is just an outright lie. The democrats sided with common sense and have blocked it, but have been willing to look at it.---------------------- As for the content of the letter, there is a valid point, but no more so that of a WalMart opening in a community. But not to worry, the chances of a high end casino ever being built are slim. Not because of politics but because the last one in on a casino is the one that never profits and I think that will be what happens.

I am glad this article mentions two important aspects of the "charitable entertainment venue" piece of the casino debate that, in my opinion, are not getting enough attention. First - these venues operate primarily upon voluntary, free labor. There are more than 30,000 unemployed workers in NH that need paying jobs, and thousands more that are under employed and need better paying jobs. These charitable venues don't provide that to any significant degree; instead they depend on people that already make enough money to work for free (volunteering is an important thing to do but if you can't afford to feed your family, you're not likely able to afford to do much volunteer work). Second -- these venues operate tax free. They benefit from investments paid for by taxes and from other local for-profit businesses that combine to make a viable environment to operate these venues within. The capacity to keep these venues thriving depends on a state economy that has workers making money, and being productive in society to a degree that they can equally support these venues by paying taxes, having disposable income, etc. A casino will bring thousands of jobs and gainfully employ thousands. A casino will pay taxes that will be used to help the state thrive. We should not be asking the unemployed to be sacrificied to save charitable entertainment venues, and we should not delay this important opportunity to bring more taxpayers into the state. Our economy cannot thrive on charity.

So I guess we are resigned to only be exposed to the hand picked talent that Capital Center for the Ahhhhhtssss.....can bring in. Aside from current bookings of has beens like Robert Cray and John Prine, casinos would certainly not be featuring Justin McKinney, La Boheme, obscure dance troops, etc. I very much doubt that any Casino would want to compete for those same artists and more than like the majority of those attending the CCA are pretentious, high minded liberals. It is doubtful that they would go to a casino and rub elbows with the hoi polloi, the ignorant masses and all of those tea partier types. What next, legislation to stop movie theaters that will harm the uh-Red-uh-River-uh-Theeeaaaaterrrrr? Will we all be regulated to viewing high minded films that make a social statement or be forced to read subtitles at non-sensical trash art films . CCA has nothing to worry about, they acts they book really don't rise to the popularity of the acts which would be booked at a casino.

It's funny that you complain about "high minded liberals" being self-important and thinking they're better than everyone else. The only person I see on here who regularly looks down their nose at others with an air of "I'm better than them" is YOU.

You confuse outing the elite for who they are with "I'm better than you", in fact I could care less what other people do or how they think so long as they don't force those beliefs on me or so long as their sensibilities don't dictate how I have to live. It is like your vegan friend who always posts hysteria at Thanksgiving time. That is how I view liberals, all about they know best and DAMN IT, you need to go along and think this way too. I am no better and do not think I am better than anyone else and am probably viewed by elitists as not as good as them. The issue is that liberal hearts bleed for people they see suffering but they skip right by hard working people just trying to make ends meet and be left alone. I consider myself in that hoi polloi group. Progressives and high minded liberals see themselves as more enlightened, more intellectual and more cultured than others. If that is not "I''m better than you", then I don't know what is. I don't like, want or need that kind of person to tell me how to live, what to eat, how much I should pay others from my taxes. They have proven to be wrong on just about everything. Enough said.

WHOAAAA!!!!!! My "vegan friend?" BITE YOUR TONGUE, ITSA!

And the exact same could be said for every new business that opens. Should the state stop any new gas stations, grocery stores, coffee shops, clothing stores, etc... because they all will siphon off some business from another business. Did the Capitol Center for the Arts take business from someone else? What really is the difference between a casino booking an act and the non-profit Capital Center booking an act - the director clearly says they both do it to make a profit. What other new business’ in NH have "mitigation agreements" under a written law? If the director wants level then how about both being non-profits or both not, they are both selling tickets for a profit.

the only litmus test for a legislator should be - is this the recreation good for NH. Unfortunately the liberal progressive socialist democrats that run the state house only think of more MONEY and that will come off the backs of the hard working citizens that cannot afford to lose it.

I just looked at the Cap center web site's listing of the scheduled shows for the next 4 months. There is only one "headline" show there in Robert Cray. Sorry, but I for one would like a little more headline closer to home.

Gee, you must've looked at the events list for a DIFFERENT Capital Center . . . because ours here in Concord has Robert Cray and ALSO has The Irish Rovers, John Prine, Craig Fergusen, La Boheme, Bill Engvall, Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain, Cosi Fan Tutti, West Side Story, Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, and Peter and the Wolf!!! Of course, I do believe only one of those things was ever featured on MTV in the 80s . . . perhaps you should broaden your definition of what "arts and culture" are???

Has been and wannabee acts. La Boheme (gasp), Cosi Fan Tutti (oh how the beautiful people will gush), West Side Story (who has not been in a better theatre to see that?), John Prine (is he pickled), the Irish Rovers (must be their children now singing the same old songs). Phil Robertson (a liberal hecklers dream) and oh, how inspiring, Peter and the Wolf (oh the joy, "Muffie, the show is about to begin"). But the "culture", the "enlightened offerings", the "ahhhhts" or my is Heaven at the CCA! If the Hoi Polloi would just wake up and realize that NCIS and Modern Family and any movie not showing at the RRT is just trash and so low brow.....oh the pain.

You're right..The Cap Center should be quite concerned about losing those headliner shows to a casino.

Give it up, Dan. If Duck Dynasty doesn't win 'em over, there is no hope.

You always make me chuckle Tillie . . . I almost did a spit-take w/my morning coffee on that one!

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