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Letter: The lesson of the Lottery

Ben Leubsdorf did an admirable job of paralleling New Hampshire’s adoption of a state lottery in 1963 with the current debate on casino gambling (“The great gambling debate of 1963,” Sunday Monitor Viewpoints, May 19). There is another likely parallel.

According to the official New Hampshire Lottery Commission website, the game began with a single $3 ticket. The original 1963 law said the sweepstakes could hold up to two drawings a year. Today, the Lottery Commission states, New Hampshire offers “a variety of lotto-type games and numerous instant games” that can be played virtually every day. The lottery has grown like Topsy because once the state relies on a source of funding, it has a vested interest in promoting and growing it. This year, for example, HB 2, the supplemental budget bill, included incentives to lottery employees to expand sales.

We can expect the same if a “single, well-regulated casino” becomes part of the Legislature’s revenue stream. Just as the Lottery Commission has consistently lobbied to expand games to compensate for lagging sales, casino owners and promoters will have leverage to expand gambling to other communities to create new gamblers as revenues fail to meet expectations in the saturated gambling market. And remember: No Legislature is bound by the promises made by its predecessors. The payoffs to the host community, higher education, law enforcement, mental health care, etc., are not contractual and may be reduced or eliminated at will.

If you want to see the New Hampshire’s future if SB 152 passes, look no farther than the proliferation of the lottery. H.L. Menken once wrote that for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong. Casino gambling is such an answer.

BYRON O. CHAMPLIN

Concord

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