Editorial: Think local, vote ‘no’ on casino
Today is a day for state representatives to look out for their own. By that we mean the hometown businesses that provide jobs, pay taxes, support sports teams and give a city or town vitality and a sense of place. Every existing business would be harmed by the loss of revenue a casino would vacuum out of residents’ pockets. We urge legislators to think hard about those companies before voting on the proposed casino legislation.
The vote of Concord’s delegation should be unanimous in opposition to the casino bill. Hundreds of people donated their time, labor and money to restore the Capitol Center for the Arts and make it a regional entertainment destination. Its customers dine in local restaurants, patronize shops and stay in Concord hotels. A New Hampshire casino, as the Cap Center’s executive director Nicolette Clark told lawmakers earlier this year, would hurt the state’s existing entertainment venues, including the Cap Center, as well as all the businesses that benefit from the people entertainment venues bring to a town.
Gambling winnings – and remember, in the long run the house always wins – allow casinos to pay more for top stars and acts and sell tickets at discount rates. That makes it impossible for other venues to book those acts. It’s the top draws – the ones that pack the house – that allow venues like the Cap Center, Manchester’s Verizon Center and Palace Theatre, Meadowbrook in Gilford, the Colonial in Keene or the Music Hall in Portsmouth to break even or make a profit. Not being able to book those acts – or having to charge considerably more than the casino would – puts the survival of existing venues and the economic vitality of the areas that host them at risk.
Every business will suffer to some degree if today’s vote is yes. A Salem casino, presuming three casinos open in Massachusetts, would draw most of its customers from New Hampshire. Disposable income is finite. A person who blows a couple hundred bucks in a casino may just go an extra week before visiting a barber or hairdresser, cook at home instead of dine out, or resist that impulse to buy that shiny power tool. Play and lose hundreds of dollars per week, as some of the patrons Monitor reporter Annmarie Timmins interviewed at a Pennsylvania casino do, and it becomes easy to put off things like buying a new car or remodeling the kitchen.
Taxpayers could lose as well. The presumed revenue from a casino, not counting the initial licensing fee, could be only a break-even for the state if added enforcement costs and the price of dealing with problem gambling consume the state’s share of the take, according to a report by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. Meanwhile, with disposable income flowing to the casino, revenue from the state’s business profits and business enterprise taxes would go down if, as expected, other businesses suffer.
The revenue drain from existing businesses would be greatly exacerbated if, as former governor John Lynch and others warned, the door to expanded gambling, once opened, only swings one way, toward ever more casinos and slots parlors. A casino is a siphon hose that will move the liquid assets that nourish New Hampshire’s economy out of state and away. House members should, as they have so often in the past, resist the false promise of easy money and reject the casino bill.