New Hampshire House Mulls Two-Casino Plan

The New Hampshire House’s Ways and Means Committee has begun holding hearings on a proposal to allow two casinos in the Granite State, a bill that has already passed the Senate. Jerry Gappens (l.), GM of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, says a casino could help to add other attractions to his facility.

The New Hampshire House panel that writes the state’s tax laws last week held hearings on a proposal already passed by the Senate that would authorize two casinos with a total of 5,000 slots in the Granite State. A month ago the House killed a bill that would have authorized a single casino with the same number of slots.

The Ways and Means Committee is studying the bill that was forwarded to the House by the Senate and which, besides dividing up 5,000 slots and 240 gaming tables between two casinos, would include what has been called “bribery” by some critics: $25 million in revenue sharing for local communities. The critics add that the money is a false promise since future legislatures could easily take it away.

One of the most vocal supporters of the plan is the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which would like to bid for one of the two licenses. The speedway’s general manager, Jerry Gappens, last week hosted a breakfast at the Concord Holiday Inn and talked up the location for a number of uses, including a state fair and motor sports museum—and as a casino. Gappens plans to testify in favor of the bill before the committee.

He told the Concord Monitor,  “If it’s going to come, this would be a site that should be on the most desirable list. I’m a pro-speedway guy, and I’m bullish on this location. I think the Route 106 corridor has so much economic growth potential. It would be a good thing to bring in additional tax revenue and jobs to the area.”

If the bill were to be adopted, Gappens wouldn’t be the only one interested. The bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Lou D’Allesandro, calls it a “bidding situation,” and says he has heard of several possible developers.

Count Senator John Reagan among those who think that any location for a casino is a bad location. Reagan, who voted against the bill, declared last week, “It doesn’t matter where it would be. It would be a bad thing. It’s touted as the cure to all your revenue shortfalls, and it hasn’t been that for anyone.” He considers a NASCAR racetrack to be an iffy proposition for a casino. “What happens to their regular thousands of people who are gaming and then all of the people want to go there for a NASCAR race? It sounds like it might be a logistical problem,” he said, according to the Monitor.

The Speedway has been touting itself as a good all around casino site at least since 2010, when the legislature debated a bill that would have allowed the state’s six racetracks to add slot machines. That year it paid for a study of gaming and the hotel market potential for the area, based on four casinos. At that time the study estimated that a casino in Loudon with 750 slots and 24 table games would create a profit of $50 million annually.

Gappens is even more bullish today, basing his figures on a market that includes 18 million people who live within 200 miles of the speedway. He’s willing to take critics of gambling head on, challenging them to produce actual figures of crime that casinos have generated. He says no local authorities that he knows of have ever made such a claim.