EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 11, 2014

Charities worry about The Rock's future

Charities fear loss of some $1.8M from The Rock

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — As state lawmakers consider legislation that could bring a casino to Rockingham Park, leaders of local charities are worried they each could lose tens of thousands of dollars a year if expanded gambling isn’t approved.

At the Ingram Senior Center, gaming proceeds helped pay for a new addition and to keep programs running, according to Salem Senior Services director Patti Drelick.

At Greater Salem Caregivers, the money helps pay for basic operations, including the organization’s office and insurance, executive director Richard O’Shaughnessy said. Charitable gaming proceeds also fund clients’ transportation to medical appointments in Boston, he said.

“For Senior Services, it’s huge,” Drelick said. “You would have to hold a thousand bake sales to make up for a night of gaming.”

The organization received $45,000 through charitable gaming at Rockingham Park in 2013, Drelick said. Of that, $20,000 was used to replace a floor at the senior center, she said.

“That probably would not have happened if I had to pay for it with my budget,” she said.

In the last seven years, Salem Senior Services has reaped $362,000 through gaming — money that would be nearly impossible to replace, she said.

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry received $45,000 last year through gaming at The Rock, club executive director Art McLean said.

“It’s a huge benefit to our club,” McLean said. “The money we raised paid the entire salary of one of our staff members.”

But the money they receive could soon disappear if casinos open in Massachusetts and expanded gambling is defeated in New Hampshire, the three charitable leaders said.

“Yes, it’s a concern,” Drelick said. “If the opportunity for casino gambling doesn’t come to New Hampshire, I think we would lose out. It would be real difficult.”

There’s also concern Rockingham Park could be closed if lawmakers do not approve casino gambling.

“They would not be able to remain competitive,” Drelick said.

McLean agrees.

“I’m pretty sure if Massachusetts opens a casino, the folks will just go to Massachusetts to the big casino,” he said.

Edward Callahan, president and general manager of Rockingham Park, said yesterday that even if gambing legislation is defeated this session, the facility will remain open.

But if a casino opens in Massachusetts in 2016 as proposed, The Rock would have to consider its options, he said.

“We would have to look at everything,” Callahan said.

Millennium Gaming of Las Vegas has an option to purchase the facility. Last year, Millennium revealed plans for a 300-room hotel and entertainment venue at the park. A Senate bill defeated last year could have meant 5,000 video slot machines, 150 tables and up to 3,000 construction and gaming jobs at the park.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said in her State of the State address last week that New Hampshire would lose $75 million annually if expanded gambling is not approved.

Lawmakers are considering several bills, including House legislation that calls for a single high-end casino and a Senate bill that proposes two casinos. Money earmarked for charitable organizations is not expected to decrease if the legislation is passed, Callahan said.

Gaming at Rockingham Park generated $1.9 million — or an average of $53,513 — for 37 nonprofit organizations in 2012 and $1.8 million in 2013, Callahan said.

He attributed the $100,000 decrease to declining interest in Texas hold ‘em poker, one of The Rock’s most popular games.

If expanded gambling is approved, more organizations would be allowed to participate if they meet state gaming regulations, Callahan said. If an organization violates regulations, it’s dropped and another is added, he said.

Pelham Community Spirit was recently added after being on the 190-organization waiting list for four or five years, Callahan said.

There was a slight decrease last year in charitable gaming statewide, according to Paul Kelley, director of the New Hampshire Racing and Charitable Gaming Commission. The amount raised for charities, including 390 that offer games of chance, declined from $13.2 million in 2012 to $13.1 million in 2013, he said.

“I think it’s mostly because of the economy,” he said. “There is only so much discretionary income out there.”

Who benefits from charitable gaming? Charity 2013 revenue Granite State Kids $53,822 Palace Theatre $43,671 Salem Animal Rescue League $54,104 Friendship Club $44,992 Hampstead Civic Club $58,679 Family Mediation and Juvenile Services $51,354 Wentworth Coolidge Comm. $38,484 Trinity High School $48,115 Friends of ServiceLink $51,990 Community Crossroads $48,611 The Eighth Pole $50,109 Windham Baseball/Softball $53,982 Salem Boys and Girls Club $55,359 American Legion Post 63 $42,845 Knights of Columbus 4442 $64,799 Salem Family Resources *NA Salem Lions Club $47,041 Salem Youth Hockey $55,356 Knights of Columbus 142 $53,011 Greater Salem Caregivers $68,172 Play Among The Stars *NA Salem Exchange Club $45,534 Salem Firefighters Assoc. $49,410 Salem Youth Baseball $50,109 Pelham Community Spirit *NA Seacoast Child Advocacy Ctr. $42,371 Salem HS Band Parents $53,974 Salem Special Needs $46,344 Dollars For Scholars $52,564 Arlington Pond Protective Assoc. $51,991 Salem Historical Society $59,278 Salem Council on Aging $44,902 Salem Police Benevolent Assoc. *NA Salem Rams Youth Football *NA Derry Boys and Girls Club *NA Salem Kiwanis $47,062 NH Rail Trail *NA *Not all dollar amounts were available at press time. Those organizations' totals are indicated as NA.