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May 16, 2013

House panel rejects casino bill by one vote

Full House likely to vote on expanded gaming bill next week

CONCORD — Eighty-one percent of town voters supported a casino at the polls, but one of two Salem representatives on a House panel voted yesterday to spike an expanded gaming bill.

The House Ways and Means and Finance committees voted, 23-22, against legislation that would allow for expanded gambling in New Hampshire and the establishment of a single casino, possibly at Rockingham Park.

Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem, was one of two Southern New Hampshire legislators on the so-called super committee to recommend killing the bill. Of the seven area representatives on the House panel, only Garcia and Rep. Norman Major, R-Plaistow, voted with the majority.

The full House will pass final judgment on Senate Bill 152, possibly next week.

Major said he could only support expanded gambling if a better bill were proposed.

The joint panel debated the bill and 18 proposed amendments for nearly three hours in a packed room at the Legislative Office Building before Rep. Patricia Lovejoy, R-Stratham, voted to recommend the full House not pass the bill.

The Senate approved the legislation, 16-8, in March.

While some lawmakers said the state needs the millions of dollars in annual revenue a casino would provide, others said the bill would be problematic if it passed.

“It has a lot of flaws in it,” Garcia said after the vote. “It’s pretty obvious there was a complete consensus there were many flaws.”

Garcia said although she was inclined to vote against expanded gambling, her vote was based on the legislation, not whether her constituents supported a casino.

Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas has proposed a $600-million-plus casino development at Rockingham Park. The bill, which could be voted on by the House as early as Wednesday, allows for up to 5,000 video slot machines and 150 table games. Millennium’s plans also include a 300-room hotel, a spa, the return of live horse racing and more.

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