My Turn: New Hampshire has spoken on casinos
A month ago, the New Hampshire House of Representatives continued a nearly 40-year tradition and again voted down the legalization of casino gambling. Unfortunately, the New Hampshire Senate sent them back another casino legalization bill a week later.
This one proposes two casinos and a questionable revenue distribution scheme designed to try to sway some votes. Many legislators have made no secret of the fact that they are sick of this issue, and it’s time to move on. We agree.
It’s been nearly 40 years since supporters proposed to legalize casino gambling and then-Attorney General David Souter fought it. Over that time, the issue has been repeatedly studied and debated by an ever-changing cast of legislators. We’ve had blue ribbon commissions and regulatory authorities. The state spent more than $150,000 on consultants to review it in the last year alone, by a commission stacked with mostly casino supporters and a consultant who runs casinos.
And after all this effort, the Legislature has always reached the same conclusion – casino gambling is wrong for New Hampshire. Bad economics. Very uncertain revenues. Lots of social costs. A drain on other not-for-profit entertainment and cultural organizations. Bad for our tourism brand.
Year after year we come back to the same arguments. Each year gambling advocates rephrase, reword and restructure their political rhetoric, and promise new funds to different groups or causes, and each year the majority of legislators reject their plans. How much longer must this continue?
It’s clear that New Hampshire rejects this idea. No amount of revision to casino legislation can make this bad idea better.
Let’s decide once and for all that a casino is not in the cards for New Hampshire. When this current proposal fails, let’s use common sense and stop the never-ending debates over a decided issue.
Why not put that valuable time and effort instead into enhancing what we already have? New Hampshire knows how to do tourism, as our existing and reliable programs prove. Let’s continue to improve here and in other dependable areas of revenue. Let’s focus on creating real jobs and stop kidding our citizens that two casinos amounts to an economic development plan for New Hampshire.
When the House speaks next, the casino issue should be considered dead, not just for this session, but for good. You can’t make a bad idea better. It’s time to move on.
(Harold Janeway of Webster is a former Democratic state senator. Steve Duprey of Concord is a businessman and member of the Republican National Committee. They are spokesmen for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Casino Free New Hampshire and Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling.)