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March 28, 2014

N.H. Senate revives casino gaming debate

House gets one last chance

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House rejected casino gaming earlier this month, but refused to dismiss more discussion of the issue this session.

Now the House will get one final chance, which is just what proponents, including Gov. Maggie Hassan want.

The Senate yesterday approved its own casino gaming bill, Senate Bill 366, on a 15-9 vote.

“The battle will be in the House,” said Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, a casino supporter.

The Senate bill differs from House Bill 1633, which failed on a 173-144 vote in the House two weeks ago.

Thus bill provides for two casinos, while the House version allowed for the one Gov. Hassan has said she wants.

The Senate version, as revised by prime sponsor Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, to appeal to House lawmakers, will include House-backed regulation measures.

Despite differences with the Senate version over the number of casinos, the governor’s office was encouraging of more consideration by the House.

“Gov. Hassan appreciates the Senate’s continued recognition that New Hampshire will soon see the impact of Massachusetts casinos right across our border in the form of lost revenue and potential social costs,” said Marc Goldberg, a spokesman for the governor. “The governor continues to believe that developing New Hampshire’s own plan for one highly regulated casino is the best course of action for investing in the priorities that are critical to long-term economic growth. She encourages members of the House to take this opportunity to invest in New Hampshire’s needs, not Massachusetts.”

Proponents of casino gaming are eager to capture annual revenues estimated as high as $100 million to fund state services.

University of New Hampshire polling shows the people want it, with 58 percent of respondents supporting casino gaming.

But opponents remained concerned about social costs and the potential for crime or political corruption.

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