New Hampshire Legislature to Reconsider Casinos

Senator Lou D’Allesandro (l.) of New Hampshire has filed a casino bill in the Senate for the 11th time in as many years. This year he is more optimistic than ever that it will pass.

Buoyed by the fact that last year’s casino bill was defeated in the New Hampshire House by only one vote, supporters are trying again this year with a new bill.

One supporter is the owner and employees of Rockingham Park in Salem, which is threatened by declining wagers, but where the hope of a casino holds out hope of saving racing.

As he has done for 11 years, Senator Lou D’Allesandro has proposed a bill, SB 113, that would allow for two casinos in the Granite State. He commented, “I think it’s the right thing for New Hampshire. I think it’s the right thing for New Hampshire’s economy.” His bill is the only casino bill being proposed in this session.

His bill envisions two casinos, a larger one would have up to 3,000 slot machines, and as many as 160 gaming tables, and an another with up to 1,500 slots and as many as 80 tables.

D’Allesandro argues that his bill, if it becomes law, would provide $100 million for the state and local governments. The county hosting a casino would get 1 percent of casino revenues, with the host community getting 3 percent.

Last year a similar bill was passed by a large margin in the Senate, only to be defeated in the House by a single vote majority. Hearings on the bill began in the House last week.

Governor Maggie Hassan, while she supports a casino bill, would like to limit it to one casino. She hasn’t gone so far as to earmark casino revenues for her two-year budget, which she did last year when a similar bill was proposed.

Salem and Rockingham Park would be a good fit for a casino resort since 80 percent of the city’s voters showed their support for such a thing at a non-binding referendum a few years ago.

Gary Azarian, whose district includes Salem, the make-off of the House changed after last November’s election. He told the Eagle Tribune: “I think the freshman legislators realize this is a revenue source we can’t ignore.”

Edward Callahan, president and general manager of Rockingham Park, commented last week that the state needs to act to keep gaming revenue to drain in to nearby Massachusetts. “I think it’s all about creating jobs and creating revenue and keeping New Hampshire money in New Hampshire.”

Organizations that have lined up to try to repeat the defeat of the last 11 years include the League of Women Voters, Casino Free NH and the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling.

League Co-President Sally Adams told lawmakers, “We have been speaking against it for 15 years. We don’t think it’s a good way to fund government (operations). We think broad-based taxes are.”