By John Toole
---- — CONCORD — The House voted this afternoon to kill a New Hampshire casino proposal, 199-164.
By a wider margin, the House then ruled out possible reconsideration, 212-152.
It's unclear whether the issue is completely dead, because some observers, including former Senate president Arthur Klemm of Salem, have speculated the Senate could try to revive the casino debate procedurally on its end.
But the House vote would indicate that's an uphill battle at this point.
Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, earlier today said the Senate would not try to put a casino amendment into the budget bill, insisting the casino decision rested with the House.
"It's up to them," Morse said.
The House debated the Senate-passed casino bill, Senate Bill 152, for more than two hours. It would have licensed one casino by bid with local approval.
By a roll call vote, the full House accepted a joint House committee recommendation that the bill was "inexpedient to leigislate." That meant more than a dozen proposed amendments never received any consideration by the committee or the full House.
The House rejection is a major blow to Salem, where Las Vegas-based Millennium Gaming Inc. has an option to buy Rockingham Park and had a $600 million-plus redevelopment plan it said could create 3,000 construction and gaming jobs.
At Town Meeting in March, 81 percent of Salem voters approved a non-binding referendum to allow a casino in that town.
Today's debate pitted economic interests versus concerns over regulation and quality of life.
Southern New Hampshire lawmakers who spoke on the issue focused on potential jobs and revenues for the state.
"We have no other source of revenue," Rep. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, told the House.
Rep. Gary Azarian, R-Salem, said a casino would help finish Interstate 93 widening and create jobs.
"These are not low-paying jobs," Azarian said.
Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua, said failure to open a casino would create a giant funnel for revenue dollars flowing from New Hampshire to Massachusetts.
"That's billions with a 'B,'" Campbell told the House.