EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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March 22, 2013

Casino bills reduced to one

One proposal killed; another one tabled

It’s almost like having a couple of appetizers before delving into the main course.

But for some members of the Legislature who support plans to allow expanding gambling in New Hampshire, two casino-related bills before the House yesterday didn’t belong on the same plate as a much-touted third proposal.

“It’s not even an appetizer,” Sen. James Rausch, R-Derry, said of the two bills. “It’s a different table that you’re at.”

Rausch is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 152, which calls for establishment of a casino offering up to 150 table games and 5,000 video slots.

Rausch and other backers of the legislation, including Gov. Maggie Hassan, say approval of expanded gambling would provide the state with millions of dollars in much-needed revenue each year.

SB 152 was passed by the Senate last week but faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-controlled House, which yesterday killed one casino bill and tabled another.

House Bill 665 was soundly defeated, 249-65. It called for two casinos, including one near the Massachusetts border but with no specified location although Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas hopes to open one at Rockingham Park in Salem.

Last week, 81 percent of Salem residents who voted in their town’s election supported a nonbinding referendum to allow a casino at the former racetrack.

The other legislation, House Bill 678, was tabled 170-160. It would have allowed 5,000 slots at six locations in the state.

Lawmakers agreed to table the bill, instead of killing it, to increase the House’s options when considering the gambling issue later this session. A two-thirds vote would be required to review the bill again.

For those who hope to soon see casino gambling in New Hampshire — such as Rausch, Millennium Gaming spokesman Rich Killion and Rockingham Park president and general manager Edward Callahan — the two House bills might as well be pushed off the Legislature’s plate.

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