House rules: Representatives vote down Senate-passed casino bill

  • FILE - This Jan. 4, 2012 file photo shows gamblers at the slot machines at the Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack, in the Queens borough of New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to build the world's largest convention center hotel at the New York City racetrack as part of his push to expand gambling in a bid for more state tax revenue and jobs. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File) Mary Altaffer

Monitor staff
Published: 5/8/2019 5:40:04 PM

It’s a truism at the betting tables and the State House: When it comes to casino gambling in New Hampshire, the House always wins.

On Wednesday, the New Hampshire House killed a Senate-passed proposal to license and tax two casinos in the state, 289-63, bringing another effort by Manchester Sen. Lou D’Allesandro to its demise. 

“There may have been a time when casinos made sense for New Hampshire, but that time has without a doubt come and gone,” said Willis Griffith, a first-term Democrat from Manchester, speaking against the bill. No representatives spoke in favor. 

The bill, Senate Bill 310, would allow the creation of two casinos offering video lottery machines and table games, with a maximum 5,000 lottery machines allowable between the two of them. Between initial licensing fees and taxes – 35% for video lottery games and 18% for tabletop games – the casinos could potentially bring in up to $160 million to state coffers by 2024, according to an estimate from the Lottery Commission. 

 For D’Allesandro, a Democrat, the effort is a biennial one, dating back to 1999. But while past attempts have come close – including one with the support of then-Gov. Maggie Hassan in 2013 – critics this year raised concerns that New Hampshire’s moment has passed.

The opening of a number of casinos in Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut, including a new facility planned in Everett, Mass. by Wynn Resorts, prompted many on the House Ways and Means committee to argue that the window had closed for a competitive option in New Hampshire. Critics said with so many alternatives, any casino operators might struggle to attract the business necessary to secure those promised revenues. 

The bill passed the Senate 13-11 in March, with Republican and Democratic support for both sides. But historically, the concept has faced opposition in the House. However, House and Senate lawmakers have appeared coalesced this year on an effort by Gov. Chris Sununu to legalize online and site-based sports betting, an effort that the Lottery Commission says could bring in around $10 million a year. 

A full-on casino legalization has been less lucky.

After killing the bill Wednesday, lawmakers voted to indefinitely postpone the bill, 214-139, an action that blocks any similar bills from clearing the house without clearing a two-thirds majority. 

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)




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