Editorial: Casinos are the wrong answer
Over time, the relentless lobbying by pro-gambling forces and the grinding task of allocating insufficient resources has worn down the resistance of many New Hampshire lawmakers who long opposed expanded gambling. Some cracked under the pain of denying services to children who need them or placing the disabled on waiting lists for services. With a shudder, they agreed to support a casino for the revenue proponents said it would provide.
We ask them to reconsider. We ask that the New Hampshire House, which has been a bulwark against expanded gambling, hold firm. And we ask Gov. Maggie Hassan, who supports the construction of a casino near the Massachusetts border, to change her mind. Casino gambling is not the answer to New Hampshire’s fiscal problems.
It would be the beginning of a whole new set of problems.
The ancient Greek oracle at Delphi gave up opinions more readily than John Lynch, but in his last days as governor Lynch warned against opening the state up to casino gambling.
“I worry about proliferation. I don’t know how you contain it and what it would mean for New Hampshire over 20 years. It could have a structurally negative impact on the state,” Lynch told Monitor editors in a recent interview. “We have all these good things going for us. Let’s not mess it up by doing something structurally different,” he said.
The money that gambling interests are willing to spend to influence legislation can have a corrupting influence on government, one that puts the interests of out-of-state investors ahead of those of the citizenry. Casinos and their low-brow cousins, slot parlors, are hard to contain because the revenue they bring in is addictive.
The temptation to expand is ever present. Because one legislature can’t bind another, the power of lobbying money, as well as the “You let them, so why not us?” argument would lead to an increase in the number of gambling outlets.
Since casinos draw most of their business from within a 50-mile radius, most of the money they take in would come from New Hampshire pockets.
In a casino market that’s doing poorly, the likelihood that anyone will gamble on building a huge destination casino in New Hampshire is zilch, not when one super-casino already exists at Foxwoods in Connecticut and a $1.5 billion casino may be built near Boston.
To attract business, a casino would spend far more on advertising than the state spends to promote tourism. Permitting a casino would allow gambling interests to brand New Hampshire in a way detrimental to its image as a family-friendly outdoor paradise. When people think of Connecticut, they think of Foxwoods; the same could happen here.
Legalizing casinos would also increase the incidence of gambling addiction and the fragmenting of families that can result.
Wavering legislators should think of the interests of their constituents in business and the people they employ. A casino, let alone multiple casinos, racinos and slot parlors, would efficiently suck up disposable income that would otherwise be spent in New Hampshire shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. The effect on existing businesses could be profound enough that any estimate of revenue gained by the state would be offset by a reduction in business profits taxes and losses at the local level from increased enforcement and lower property taxes.
Two casino bills have been filed so far, and more wouldn’t surprise us. One, by perennial gambling proponent Sen. Lou D’Allesandro and Salem Sen. Chuck Morse, calls for the single, large casino Hassan has said she could support. The other posits two small casinos, one in southern New Hampshire and one in the North Country. Neither are gambles worth taking.