Casino opponents gearing up for a renewed fight at N.H. Legislature
Casino opponents and supporters are gearing up for a renewed fight next year over expanded gambling in New Hampshire.
The Senate in March voted 16-8 to pass a bill allowing a single casino in the state. It was backed by Gov. Maggie Hassan, but the House in May killed the bill on a 199-164 vote.
The issue is likely to return in 2014, as the Legislature continues to search for a funding mechanism for transportation infrastructure and considers a report due this month from the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority, a state commission working to craft a regulatory framework for a potential future casino.
So two anti-casino groups, Casino Free New Hampshire and the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling, held a news conference in Concord this morning to kick off their renewed effort to oppose casino legislation.
The groups’ new frontmen: former state senator Harold Janeway, a Webster Democrat, and Concord developer Steve Duprey, a Republican and former state party chairman.
(The Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling had been chaired by Jim Rubens, a Republican former state senator who now is running for the U.S. Senate.)
“There’s no doubt in our minds that this is the most important decision for the Legislature in this upcoming session,” Janeway said. “There’s no walking this one back. No state has ever reversed course and said, ‘Oh, boy, we’ve made a mistake. I wish we hadn’t.’ They get deeper and they get deeper, and the tougher it gets, the deeper they get.”
Duprey said they respect the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority’s efforts, “but no matter how well regulated, the work of the commission doesn’t make a bad idea any less bad. And our point is, casino gambling is bad for New Hampshire on many, many fronts.”
A bipartisan group of seven pro-casino state representatives responded with a joint statement blasting the news conference as premature.
“It is unfortunate, although not surprising, that opponents of casino gambling didn’t even wait for the final report of the New Hampshire Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority to be released with final recommendations before attempting to choose the outcome of this important debate with the same old rhetoric,” began the statement from Reps. Bob Elliott of Salem, Dick Hinch of Merrimack, Peter Leishman of Peterborough, Pat Long of Manchester, Laura Pantelakos of Portsmouth, Katherine Rogers of Concord, Deanna Rollo of Rollinsford and Ken Weyler of Kingston.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or email@example.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)